Region Rallies Around River Trail Concept

March 8th Meeting Summary

Region’s Leaders Rally Around River and Natural Assets

A diverse group of people representing business, government and non-profits from the Shiawassee River region are leading an effort to create a coalition that will help promote recreational tourism and attract new dollars to our local economies from the river’s headwaters in Holly all the way up to the Shiawassee River National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw Township.  Their goal is to both improve access to and package outdoor experiences such as kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and bird watching. Much work has already been accomplished from Holly to Byron, which resulted in the Shiawassee River landing at #7 on the Top 11 Places to Paddle in Michigan.  The Coalition will work to extend those improvements in recreational access, signage, mapping, programming and public information into the communities of Durand, Vernon, Corunna, Owosso, Oakley, St. Charles and Chesaning.

The City of Linden, Friends of the Shiawassee River, HeadWaters Trails, Keepers of the Shiawassee, Village and Township of Chesaning, Village of Holly, City of Fenton, and Fenton Township came together last fall to successfully apply for technical assistance from the National Park Service.  The National Park Service – Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, is a technical assistance program which supports successful partnerships with communities across the country in achieving their conservation and outdoor recreation visions and goals.  The National Park Service will facilitate the Coalition’s project planning process and help assess feasibility of securing National Water Trail designation.

On Tuesday, March 8th, over a dozen people gathered at Baker College of Owosso to meet with Barbara Nelson-Jameson (a trails planner with the National Park Service) to discuss forming a coalition for the purpose of seeking National Water Trail designation for the Shiawassee River.  In attendance were representatives of the Friends of the Shiawassee River, Headwaters Trail, Keepers of the Shiawassee, MSU Extension, Shiawassee Conservation District, and local government leaders from Linden, Fenton, Owosso, Chesaning and St. Charles, as well as a few super volunteers.  We will be making regular updates on the progress of the Shiawassee River National Water Trail Coalition and ways you can help support this effort. 

March 8th Meeting Summary: 

The Friends of the Shiawassee River hosted the meeting to gage organizations and municipal interests in a coordinated effort to develop a 120 mile Shiawassee River Water Trail from the headwaters in Holly to the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

The Village of Linden in cooperation with the Friends of the Shiawassee, HeadWaters Trails, Inc., Keepers of the Shiawassee, and the Villages of Holly and Fenton submitted a successful application to the National Parks Service – Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program for technical assistance with the water trail project and to explore the feasibility of applying for National Water Trail designation. 

Barbara Nelson-Jameson the Michigan Program Coordinator for the National Park Service – Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (NPS-RTCA) gave a presentation on Shiawassee River Heritage Water Trail and the National Water Trail Program (presentation uploaded to project website below).  

Afterwards she answered questions about the National Water Trail Program and led a discussion about designation criteria and best management practices; Shi River WT project management – who’s project is it and how do we move forward, and project vision and goals.

Discussion Summary:

-          It was recognized that much has already been done to; improve paddling access and opportunities,  provide better trip planning information and signage for paddlers,  keep the river free of log jams and other hazards, promote the river through festivals and events, provide environmental educational  programs and organize conservation activities and clean-ups. 

-          It was also recognized that there is not much coordination between organizations and their efforts and that all could benefit from better support and coordination.

-          Most of the water trail improvements (signage, new launch sites and facilities, trip planning information) are from Holly to Linden (Oakland County) where there had been an earlier water trail assessment and planning process led by Oakland County Planning.

-          An inventory and assessment of water trail “assets” and has not been done along the river from Byron to Chesaning to the NWR.

-          No one organization has the capacity at this time to be the local “lead” for a planning process to develop a Shiawassee River Water Trail Action and Management Plan and possible application for National Water Trail designation.   

-          It was suggested that a coalition be formed to work together with NPS-RTCA on the development of a Water Trail Action and Management Plan.  The coalition could be called the Shiawassee Water Trail Coalition and consist of a planning team and a stakeholder committee.  The planning team and stakeholder committee would have different roles. 

-          Planning Team Roles: 

  • Represent your agency, organization, and/or community – 2 way communication

  • Contribute to project vision, goals and objectives

  • Host and help with meeting arrangements

  • Provide resource information to inform water trail asset inventory and assessment

  • Help guide planning decisions

-          Stakeholder Committee Roles:

  • Keep informed of the project through website, email updates, public meetings

  • Inform the project planning team of any pertinent issues, opportunities, and  information requests

  • Share project information and announcements with your community and/or organization

-  It was suggested that the Coalition and planning process should be transparent and open to those who would like to participate and kept informed.

Coalition Member Roles

- The Friends of the Shiawassee said they could provide the following, contingent upon securing admin funding:

  1. Set up Website for the project and coalition to upload meeting summaries, project information, notification of pertinent meetings and events

  2. Coordinate and send out meeting announcements

-  MSU Extension said they were willing to:

  1. Post an article for MSU E news: (I’d ask for help from Mary at SeaGrant)

  2. Face-to-face outreach to local units of government to invite them in to the process.

  3. Develop and administer a survey to document participant interests and help ensure the design reflects the interests of the larger river community (including residents).

  4. Capacity building as far as education on water trails/river health/etc.

- Keepers of the Shiawassee said they would:

  1. help track volunteer hours,

  2. help conduct asset inventory,

  3. post activities to Coalition website, and

  4. support the effort anyway they can.

- NPS-RTCA will:

  1. Guide and facilitate the project planning process  and team

  2. Share water trail resources and information

  3. Plan and conduct Coalition and Stakeholder meetings

  4. Develop public presentations, information, and marketing materials

  5. Assist with funding strategy and grant writing

  6. Help prepare a Shiawassee Water Trail Action and Management Plan

All – who else should be involved either on the planning team or stakeholder committee?

  • Send names and addresses to Lauri

  • Who would like to host the next meeting?


March 08, 2016 at 7:00pm - 9pm
Baker College Welcome Center, Owosso, MI
150 S Leroy St
Recreation Room
Fenton, MI 48430
United States
Google map and directions
Lauri Elbing · · 989-723-9062

Will you come?