Improvements for the Linwood Scenic Access Site include sidewalks, a dock, and a kayak launch

Linwood is home to the only place along the Saginaw Bay shoreline where visitors can watch waves roll, sailboats bob on the horizon, and seagulls fish, all for free.

The problem is the Linwood Scenic Access Site isn’t easy to access or especially scenic. But a coalition of local groups wants to change that.

Laura Ogar, director of environmental affairs and community development for Bay County, is touting two-stage project to beautify the space as well as build a steel seawall and install a seasonal dock and a barrier-free kayak launch. The goal is to make the site more attractive and accessible to all.

Before any of can happen, though, the group must secure funding.

Ogar says with the first phase of improvements has a price tag of about $516,000. Applications have been submitted to the state Department of Natural Resources for a $258,000 grant. The state will announce recipients late this year. It’s the second time Ogar has applied for the funding. She re-wrote last year’s application, hoping to better meet the state’s expectations that the project would benefit the entire region.

“We hope that DNR recognizes, and we think they should, because one of their regional criteria is that the project has a regional impact, which this does. Great Lakes access is a higher priority, and I’m hoping, certainly, that we get funded.”

For about a decade, Ogar has worked with a handful of groups including county commissioners, the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to find ways improve access to the bay for everyone.

While there are a few boat launches and parks along the Saginaw Bay, the Linwood site is the only one in a 130-mile stretch of shoreline that doesn’t charge admission. On the other side of the state, Lake Michigan is dotted with fishing piers, parks, and scenic overlooks.

Ogar acknowledges that some of the differences stem from different development patterns across the state as well as the natural features of the two lakes. For example, the Saginaw Bay is shallow. Lake Michigan’s shoreline offers dramatic bluffs and high-energy waves.

But Ogar also says the issue is one of environmental injustice and she is working to correct it. The first step was asking people in the community what they’d like to see happen at the site.

Two of the most requested improvements were better shore-based fishing access and a kayak launch, which Ogar says are in the planning stages.

She has funding from WIN and the Bay Area Community Foundation for portions of the project.

Phase One is to replace a rip-rap seawall, which is constructed of broken concrete chunks. The rip-rap sea wall protects from erosion, but doesn’t create a convenient place to enjoy the view or cast a fishing line.

“We started to look at where this stuff could be placed and the usability of the site,” Ogar says. “It didn’t provide a lot of fishing access and didn’t provide any sitting/viewing area, aesthetically it was ­– it looks like blight out there. It looked like a concrete rubble pile, which it is.”

The new steel seawall will straighten up the edge of the point. Plans also call for backfilling it to create a more user-friendly space. Ogar says they’re also planning to extend the sidewalk. “Right now, it enters the parking area and stops, but this will bring it around the parking area, so it stays out of traffic and will go all the way down to the green space.”

Phase Two includes a kayak launch that complies with ADA guidelines and a 50-foot removable dock. The dock will make the site more accessible for fishing.

Between now and the DNR grant award announcements in the fall, Ogar says she will be working through the permitting process for the seawall, and applying to other grant sources. She says they need to come up with another $110,000 to fully fund Phase One.

Ogar says this project is important to the community as a whole. It benefits the people who live here as well as serving as a way to attract visitors.

“Whether intentional or not, I feel like this is something that this community for generations and for decades has been asking for – greater access to the bay,” she says. “For whatever reason it didn’t happen. It should happen, and now is the time for sure it needs to happen at least with the Linwood Access Point."

Ogar says oftentimes there are national and international visitors to the region who want to see the Saginaw Bay, and they’re asking the same question she did, “Here we’re a Great Lakes shoreline frontage community, and yet where do you go to see the bay?”