Blog: Pam Labadie

As you make your river, so you must row in it. Pam Labadie, marketing director for the Huron River Watershed Council, opines on the River Up! pilot project and why us residents of the Great Lakes basin aren't as flush with water as we think.

Post 2: RiverUp! The Time Has Come

RiverUp! is a new initiative to create a river renaissance for the communities along the length of the Huron River. Responding to a call to action from Congressman John Dingell, a highly-charged group of business leaders, community activists and city officials are launching a new effort to make a healthy Huron River into a vital economic and recreational resource for our communities, and a destination for visitors from far and wide.

Starting with the pilot effort RiverUp! Ann Arbor, and quickly expanding to Ypsilanti and other river communities, this group plans fix-up, clean-up and build-up along the Huron River corridor by building canoe and kayak portages, reclaiming old industrial properties, and shaping a Huron River Water Trail.  Through RiverUp!, communities will turn to face the river and will realize their recreational, ecological and environmental potential.

I recently became aware of the RiverUp! initiative through my work at the Huron River Watershed Council. Through HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin and Watershed Planner Elizabeth Riggs, who are both working on the project, we bring our organizational expertise in river ecology and natural resource policy and planning to the table.

Some great minds have risen to the RiverUp! challenge. Leaders of the initiative include John Carver, co-founder of National Wildlife Federation's President's Council; Ray Pittman, retired executive director of Ford Europe; Paul Dimond, expert in conservation law and author of children's literature; Dr. Thomas Buhr, board member of Anglers of the Au Sable and editor of The Riverwatch;  Andy Buchsbaum, director of National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters Coalition; Steve Hamp, former vice president and chief of staff of Ford Motor Company; and Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company.

Recognizing that the Huron River is "the jewel in nature's crown that runs through our very back yards," these local leaders and more seek to ensure the life of this incredible Southeastern Michigan resource for future generations. Like San Antonio's famed River Walk or Baltimore's Inner Harbor, they want the Huron to be an asset, not an afterthought. The initiative's long term plan is to invest in recreation infrastructure, improve the ecological health of the river, and transform it into a premier destination for people throughout Michigan.

The RiverUp! approach is "whole river" from Milford through Ypsilanti and down to below Flat Rock. It will include cleaning up historically contaminated areas and restoring more natural shorelines and river flows. It will augment existing and future efforts to develop park systems that provide access and venues for canoeing, kayaking, rowing, biking, walking, swimming and fishing, just to name a few. Goals include improving recreational access and making the river corridor a destination location that includes B&Bs, waterfront restaurants, riverside cultural attractions, and places for community events.

The Huron River Water Trail, as reported by Concentrate back in May 2011, is a major initiative of RiverUp!

The public has a unique opportunity to come learn more about RiverUp! and its pilot efforts in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti at a "River Up! Launch" on Tuesday, August 16, 1:30-2:30pm at Island Park in Ann Arbor. There will be light refreshments and live music. Congressman John D. Dingell, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, Ypsilanti Mayor Jerry Jung, HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin, and Tom Woiwode, director of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, will talk.

The time has come for us all to RiverUp!