Improvements are on the way with Chippewa River Erosion and Canoe Launch Project

For over three weeks now, engineers have been revitalizing eroded sections of Deerfield Nature Park and Majeske Landing, systematized by the Isabella County Parks and Recreation.

Deerfield Nature Park and Majeske Landing are two of the three parks that are located along the Chippewa River, a stream flowing for 91.8 miles through the central Lower Peninsula.  

With over 591 acres, Deerfield Nature Park contains eight miles of trails with crossings at four bridges, two that are swinging bridges, Lewis Pontiac Bridge and the Fisher Annex Covered Bridge, fitting for residents who love to hike, bike, fish, canoe, or kayak.

Construction was finished at Majeske Landing by the end of the day on Jul. 22, improving its launch area.At Majeske Landing, the 2.5 acres offers immediate access to the river, suitable for fishing, boating, or canoeing.

Unfortunately, due to increased recreational use and high water conditions, Deerfield Nature Park and Majeske Landing have had eroded riverbanks that have needed to be revived, Sue Ann Kopmeyer says, Director of Isabella County Parks.

High flooding has been a major issue over the past five to six years, Kopmeyer states. 

Located at the north side of Deerfield Nature Park, there are swinging bridges that people would start accessing the river from, specifically with their tubes, Kopmeyer explains. Typically, accessing the river from this direction with canoes and kayaks would be acceptable, but Kopmeyer said with tubers, it was more difficult entering into the river because the area was a little inlet, meaning no flowing water. Tubers would have to continuously pedal to approach the river.

Even though this area was never an official accessing site, it became popular for tubers. Over time, the bank started to wear down, due to high use. With high waters during the spring, Kopmeyer says it caused flooding.

“There’s erosion all throughout any river, but especially at angled areas,” Kopmeyer says.  “When it’s curving around a bank that’s already curved, it’s going to be hit. If they don’t have a good, stable root system in there, maybe with some natural rocks, it’s going to wear away.”

One of the goals of the project is to improve two current canoe launches, add one new canoe launch and repair a large section of eroded riverbank at Deerfield Nature Park.To improve the areas at Deerfield Nature Park and Majeske Landing, Isabella County Parks and Recreation adopted the Chippewa River Erosion and Canoe Launch Project. Under the project, engineers are rebuilding two current canoe launches, adding a new canoe launch and repairing the eroded riverbank at Deerfield Nature Park. Whereas at Majeske Landing, engineers will be reconstructing its launch area. 

The project was originally scheduled to be completed in fall 2021, but due to COVID-19 and construction projects increasing in price, the project was re-bid in early 2022, set to be completed this fall. 

Since Isabella County Parks and Recreation Commission manages eight county parks, the parks have a park millage, Kopmeyer says, which began in 2012 and was renewed in 2018. Voted by the community, this gives the opportunity for more projects to be done, like the Chippewa River Erosion and Canoe Launch Project. Due to low funding, it was difficult to do a generous amount of projects, Kopmeyer explains. 

“When we went out to re-bid, the cost was a little bit more, which we knew was going to happen. It was about 16-20% higher, but we were happy with the product and the company after we did evaluation,” Kopmeyer says. “Then we were able to raise a little more money that helped offset the match for the county parks.”

With the help and support from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe through their 2% revenue sharing distributions, the Mt. Pleasant Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Conservation Fund and the 12 foundations and corporations that make up the Funders Network of the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), the W.E. Martin Foundation, the Rise Family Fund, the Barbara A. Bissot Fund, the Community Impact Fund, the Fabiano Family Fund, the Jane McNamara and Louise Williams Fund, and the Access to Recreation Fund of the Mt. Pleasant Foundation, Kopmeyer says close to $100,000 was raised for the Chippewa Erosion and Canoe Launch Project. 

Isabella County Parks and Recreation Staff are grateful for the strength and encouragement from their partners.

Construction began Wednesday, July 20 at Majeske Landing, and transitioned to Deerfield Nature Park the week of July 25. Workers have been operating Monday – Friday between 7am – 7pm, with hopes of meeting their daily goals. 

After finishing Majeske Landing, workers transitioned to repair Deerfield Nature Park the week of Jul. 25.Deerfield Nature Park and Majeske Landing have remained open to the public during construction, Kopmeyer’s wish, as workers have operated one landing at a time. With Majeske Landing now finished, workers are currently repairing Deerfield Nature Park. By how efficiently and diligently construction has been going, Kopmeyer believes the project could be done in August.

During the first week of improving Deerfield Nature Park, a goal was set to finish one of the landings by Friday, July 29, so residents could enjoy the sunny weather over the weekend. Kopmeyer says that the landing was finished ahead of schedule.

“This landing was open last weekend (July 23) in its old state. It’s thrilling that it’s done,” Kopmeyer says. 

Overall, Kopmeyer and the rest of the staff at Isabella County Parks and Recreation hopes that the Chippewa Erosion and Canoe Launch Project will bring improved access and safety to the river. 

Currently, Kopmeyer says they’re still working on trying to get the Chippewa River to be a state-designated water trail. Isabella County Parks and Recreation are engaging with other counties and townships to improve and protect its waterways – and to have great public landings and secure the banks. 

In the future, Kopmeyer hopes to have an EZ Dock built, a floating, durable, eco-friendly dock, that will allow people who are handicapped to have access to the river also.

“You put your kayak on the launch and once you sit in your kayak, it has rollers on that rolls you right into the river and rolls you right out of the river,” Kopmeyer said. “People want more access and easier access to their lakes and rivers. We’re trying to accommodate better and more efficient and safe ways to recreate in our waterways.”

For more information about construction and updates, visit the Isabella County Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
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Read more articles by Danielle Patrick.

Danielle Patrick is a Chesterfield resident who finds passion in writing about the Mt. Pleasant community. In addition to her freelance work with Epicenter Mt. Pleasant, she also journals for Ignite Donuts and is an editor for Grand Central Magazine. She is set to graduate from Central Michigan University in Dec. 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Follow her on Instagram @_daniellepatrick_.