Kathleen Gazall, Flotilla organizer, having some fun with a squirt gun.
Dust off your inner-tubes and rafts and get ready to float the river! The Second Annual Flint River FLOTILLA is this Saturday, August 8th. Registration begins at Noon. Last year, over 100 people ventured out to take part in the Inaugural Flint River Flotilla and were completely blown away by their experience on the Flint River and by how much fun everyone had beginning to end. It was off the charts!
“We had so much fun with squirt guns and super soakers. Spraying the floaters as they passed under the bridges was a ton of giggles!” said Kathleen Gazall, from the Flotilla planning committee. “This has been one of the best events I have ever been involved with! Folks left the event already talking about how they couldn’t wait for next year’s float.”
There were a few river-float veterans, but for so many people it was the first time ever to float on the Flint River. As soon as they had made it to the end at Mott Park, the call went up, “You’re doing this again next year right?” And without hesitation we said YES!
Anyone interested in participating at the event, volunteering, or in serving as an event sponsor should contact the FRCA at www.frcalliance.org or email Janet Van De Winkle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Getting people in the river having a great time is exactly our goal,” said Janet Van De Winkle, executive director of the Flint River Corridor Alliance. “We want to share how easy, fun, and safe it is to have a great experience playing in and along our Flint River, transforming the experience into
lasting memories one person at a time.”
Feeling creative and competitive? We will be awarding trophies again this year for Floaters in the following categories: “Highest Energy” “Most Colorful” “Spirit Award” and we’ve added “Captains of Industry” for whichever workplace has the most employees in the Flotilla.
Be the envy of your friends, family, and colleagues. Just show everyone your bounding Energy, your true Colors and your joyful Spirit in costume and float décor. Parking is available at the golf course off of Sunset Drive just east of Ballenger Highway. A shuttle will transport you and your floating device from the golf course to the starting location.
New this year is a partnership with Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a quick and comfortable shuttle from the event parking area at Mott Park Golf Course to the Flotilla start at Tenacity Brewing. FRCA will also have tubes and rafts available for purchase while supplies last, so get registered and come early!
Skyelar Herriman – right – gives a thumbs up during a break at the Thread Lake cleanup for the 2015 Flint River and Community Cleanup.
My name is Skyelar Herriman, I’m 13 years old, and I have been helping the Flint River Watershed at Thread Lake for 4 years. At first I started volunteering there because I was bored and had nothing else to do and my dad was going, but once I got there I realized how much Thread Lake needed to be cleaned up. I remember thinking “How in the world are we ever going to clean this up!” But once everyone started working I realized that that we had a good group of people working and that we could make a difference at Thread Lake.
I like to think that everyone can make a difference in the world and that’s why I kept coming back. I realized that just cleaning up a local lake can make a big difference in your community, and even though it’s a small step to some people it’s a big step in my mission to make Flint a better place. I keep coming back because the feeling that you get while doing something that you know will make a difference is one of the best feelings. I keep coming back because it’s a great bonding with my family! We have 3 generations of my family involved, there’s my grandpa (Mike Herriman), my dad (Jerin Herriman), my uncle (Aaron Herriman), my cousin (JC Herriman), me (Skyelar Herriman), and my brother (Evan Herriman). This is a great bonding activity and you get to meet really great people.
My first year of volunteering we found close to 75 tires throughout the area. My second year we found the rear half of a car, a safe, and a payphone. My third year we used around 100 trash bags and filled a garbage truck. My fourth year we discovered a hidden part of the lake that was filled with garbage.
From the first year to the fourth year Tread Lake has changed DRASTICALLY. The first year we could find a ton of places that needed to be cleaned up and the fourth year we were having trouble finding places to clean up. Now people have said that Thread Lake is officially cleaned and if it stayed clean we would have to find a new place to clean next year. During this process I have worked with over 50 volunteers, including family members, local business owners from the BNI chapter, students from the Flint International Academy, and neighbors to Thread Lake. We have cleaned the area enough that they have re-opened the park and have events taking place at Thread Lake.
I asked the members of my family who have participated in the cleanup 4 questions about Thread Lake to see how they felt about everything. The first thing I asked was “Why do you keep coming back?” Everyone said they liked seeing the improvements every year and they liked how it felt. The second question I asked was “What surprised you the most about the area?” They either said how much trash there was, that there was a pavilion, or that the lake was even there. The third question I asked was “How has cleaning Thread Lake helped you as a person?” “It made me feel better about myself.” (Jerin Herriman) “I got to meet a lot of new people that I could learn from and I made lifelong friends.” (Aaron Herriman and JC Herriman) “It shows that I know how to use my time wisely and that I care about my community.” (Evan Herriman) “Working with this group of people has made me realize that there are more people then me willing to make a difference.” (Mike Herriman) The fourth questing I asked was “Why should people get involved in the cleanup?” They all said that it’s everybody’s part and it makes out community a better place to live.
My goal for writing this is to get people to realize how rewarding it is to help the community and to hopefully get them to come out and help. My other goal is to get my school involved in the cleanup and teach the kids that there is more to life then your cell phone, and that helping your community is one of the best feelings.
Thread Lake when I started was very, very dirty. It needed a lot of cleaning up and in the course of 4 years we accomplished our goal of cleaning Thread Lake. Now when I go to Thread lake I can say “Look how beautiful it is” and I can think “I helped do that and I helped make and difference in my community.” So I want to thank the Flint River Watershed for giving us Thread Lake to clean, Mike Herriman for becoming the site coordinator and telling my dad about it, Jerin Herriman for taking me every year to clean up Thread Lake, and anyone who volunteered and helped make a difference at Thread Lake and in the Flint community.
“I should have given the lake a second look,” said Sandra Robinson, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Flint River Watershed Coalition. She walked along the shores of Thread Lake with an old friend from the neighborhood and a new friend from the business community. They reminisced with her about all the changes they have seen and hope to yet see.
She scanned the water with a quizzical look on her face, hair and red dress ruffling in the wind. “I can remember my father and his lifelong friend spending many hours fishing and enjoying the lake. My brothers shared my father’s enjoyment of those activities. The one time I decided to give the lake a try I could not understand the attraction. For me, the outing was a fight to stay away from the mosquitoes and insects. I couldn’t see past those bugs to experience the beauty and fun staring me in the face. I turned my back on the lake until a recent revelation.
“It really didn’t occur to me that Thread Lake was an asset until I had a conversation with Barbara Griffith-Wilson who had visions for the lake many years before we became involved in the “Imagine Flint” master planning process and the “Vision for Thread Lake & Adjoining Neighborhoods” planning process undertaken by the Planning & Zoning Center at Michigan State University and the Flint River Watershed Coalition a few years ago. My new opinion of the lake is based on more mature observations. I want people of all ages to enjoy the lake the way I didn’t…The way I couldn’t bring myself to when I was a young child.”
Gary Simons grew up here too and was lost in his memories. He stopped abruptly and pointed to a field of freshly mowed grass with a huge grin on his face. “The pool was right there! We spent so many summer days swimming in that pool. Do you remember the carousel and the Pavilion, Sandra?” Thread Lake once held a regional renown because of the Lakeside Amusement Park along its western shore. The park drew large crowds to the area and is still remembered as an important part of the city’s heritage.
“Looking back, fifty years at a glance, I think about being a young boy growing up on the south end of Thread Lake. Fishing and swimming in the lake were the main events of enjoyment for me and my friends.” He got that grin on his face again. “Enjoyment of the lake meant we had to think creatively sometimes. We would use cement tubs provided to us by a neighbor as boats, then with pieces of 2 x 4’s for paddles we’d go paddling around, taking in the sights and catching fish.”
Gary moved out of state for many years, and when he returned he immediately noticed the change in wildlife species around the lake. “When I was a young boy the only birds I remember seeing around here were pheasants. Now there are mallard ducks, Canada geese, great blue herons, and swans. I’ve seen deer, muskrats, and most recently…a beaver.”
Mike Herriman of Vern’s Collision and Glass Inc. is a member of Business Promoters of Genesee County, a local chapter of Business Network International whose motto is ‘Givers Gain.’ Five years ago, Mike told his chapter about Thread Lake and that he would be going to that site to help in the Flint River and Community Cleanup organized by the Flint River Watershed Coalition. The experience was so gratifying for each of local business leaders that they decided to adopt Thread Lake as the focus of their community service. They have been involve ever since, continually building on their previous years’ effort. Chapter members show up each year with more tools, more equipment, and more volunteers.
Tall and a full head of white hair, Mike Herriman stands smiling ear to ear. “One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most each year is the expression on the faces of people that are seeing Thread Lake for the first time. Typical first words include ‘How could I have not known about this beautiful lake right here in the city?’ and ‘Why aren’t we doing more to promote this amazing asset of Flint?’”
“Our group believes that as residents and business owners we have an obligation to maintain and improve our community. This project is one of many steps that we are taking to make our community a better place to live and do business in,” Mike continued with a quite resolve.
And improvements have begun. The Flint City Council approved Flint’s first master plan since 1960 on October 28, 2013. One of the subareas defined in the Master Plan is the “South Saginaw Corridor,” which includes Thread Lake and the neighborhoods to the south, north, and west of the lake along Saginaw Street. Last fall, after months of negotiating an agreement, Genesee County Parks accepted responsibility for maintenance of several City of Flint parks, including two along Thread Lake. A massive cleanup effort was immediately undertaken by Genesee County Parks followed by huge community celebrations for residents to get reacquainted with their revitalized parks. The transformation is breathtaking.
Amy McMillan, director of Genesee County Parks, said she also hoped the beautified park and lake could increase property values in the struggling neighborhood. “Real estate that has a lakefront view is the most valuable,” she said. “This could bring back the value to Flint’s real estate. It’ll help stabilize the neighborhoods.”
The South Saginaw Task Force (SSTF) helped facilitate a $225,000 grant for the City of Flint by the Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund (MNRTF) for an improvement project at McKinley Park on Thread Lake. The funds will finance improvements to the boat launch on northwest tip of Thread Lake, repairing fences and sidewalks, creating a new soccer field and goal posts, upgrading the baseball outfield, new playground equipment, reconstructing the tennis courts, restriping basketball courts, improving the parking lots at the Vista Community Center, adding a fishing deck, an accessible floating kayak/canoe launch, a new pavilion, and an accessible path with exercise stations.
The creation of the SSTF was spearheaded by Phil Hagerman, the CEO of Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, and includes local representatives from the International Academy of Flint, Word of Life Christian Church, Flint Golf Club, Applegate Chevrolet, Walker Electric, Metro Community Development, Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, the City of Flint, Flint Area Reinvestment Office (FARO), and the Flint River Watershed Coalition.
When you meet the local leaders like Sandra Robinson, Gary Simons, Barbara Griffith-Wilson, and Art Wenzlaff and the local business leaders like Phil Hagerman, Mike Herriman, Marilyn Alvey, and the rest of the SSTF and BNI groups, you will find a deep and abiding dedication to their community. The tireless and hardworking Genesee County Parks leaders and employees, neighborhood and community organizations, and residents know the secret of Thread Lake…it is a priceless gem that, with collective action, will soon have its sparkle and charm back.
We invite you to the Second Annual “Love Your Lake” Community Picnic and Celebration on Thursday, July 23rd from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at McKinley Park (near the Vista Center, 249 Peer Avenue in Flint). Please be our guest and come enjoy the enchantments of Thread Lake and meet some of the public-spirited neighbors and friends. We believe you will walk away wondering how this gorgeous corner of paradise in the city of Flint has been kept a secret for so long.
To read more about the Vision for Thread Lake and its Neighborhoods and to join the team breathing new life into Thread Lake, please contact Sondra Severn at ssevern@FlintRiver.org or go to our website at www.FlintRiver.org.
Jack Minore at the 2014 Tour deCrim
May has been designated as National Bike Month and if you’ve been curious about getting on a bicycle for the first time or the first time in a long time, I would like to share the experience of riding our Flint River Trail on one of our Sunday rides. Most of us can remember the joy of bicycling as a kid – a great pastime and sport. But the resurgence of cycling among adults in recent years has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the 18 years that we have been riding with Friends of the Flint River Trail, the increase in the numbers of people out riding is remarkable. It started out as a few friends peddling together and has grown to dozens and dozens. The Friends of the Flint River Trail had our first ride of the season on May 3rd and what a turnout! More than 70 cyclists strong, including Flint Mayor Dayne Walling.
Flint River Trail Wayfinding Signage
Did you know that Michigan has more miles of trails than any other state in the Union? Over 12,000 miles of trails await family and friends, group rides, cycling tours and races. Personal enjoyment and competitive sports are only two values of cycling. People are increasingly using bicycles for transportation, increasing the demand and use of bike lanes. A study by the League of American Bicyclists conducted between 2005 and 2013 found that Michigan has experienced a 66% increase in the number of people commuting by bicycle. Moreover, a huge percentage of our errands two miles or less – and what could be more pleasant than a bike ride, not to mention quicker, cheaper, and healthier?
In addition to recreation and transportation, the health benefits of bicycling (and of trails, generally) has been studied extensively. You can read more about the benefits of bicycling in this brochure by our friends at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: Health and Wellness Benefits. Numerous studies show that communities with trails have lower levels of obesity and diabetes. That, of course, is especially true of communities where the weather makes year around use of the trails and of cycling is common.
Helmets are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED!
Finally, the economic impact of trails and greenways are sometimes readily apparent as in the case of trailside businesses. but they are sometimes a bit more subtle. There are companies that decide to move to a particular community because of amenities like trails, greenways and public access to waterbodies. Studies indicate that property values on and adjacent to trails increases quite dramatically. Businesses along trails also experience growth related to the presence of trails. There is no question that communities across Michigan are enjoying an economic revitalization due in part to public access to trails and greenways. Check out “Investing in Trails: Cost-Effective Improvements for Everyone,” another Rails-to-Trails brochure that illuminates the growing evidence of the positive economic impacts of trails.
Jack and Bruce: Ready to Ride!
I would also like to share a few observations about our own group: the Friends of the Flint River Trail. Over the past few years, we have averaged about 35-40 riders every Sunday during the summer and those riders come from – on average – about the same number (35+) different zip codes over the year. We have family oriented pleasant recreational rides of about 10-12 miles every Sunday – May through October – starting from the OLD Farmers’ Market at 2:00 PM. Helmets are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED! There is no fees or membership requirements: just come along and enjoy the ride.
The last ride of National Bike Month is Sunday, May 31st. Won’t you join us?
“Our future is in good hands.”
More than 300 area middle and high school students will gather to share their scientific findings and recommendations on water quality at the Flint River GREEN Student Summit at Kettering University on Friday.
Flint, MI. May 12, 2015 – During the last school year, students and their teachers from 17 school districts in Genesee, Lapeer, and Saginaw counties collaborated with mentors from environmental professions to perform water quality tests* on our Flint River Watershed’s rivers and streams. They braved the elements, pulled on waders, and hopped in the river to collect water and macroinvertebrate samples. Using scientific methods to test local streams and rivers, area students evaluate the health of their stream, research the reason(s) their stream scored the way that it did, and identify actions in practices or policies that will help them protect, preserve, and improve their local waterway. On Friday, these student scientists will present the findings along with action plans at the Flint River GREEN Student Summit from 8 am until 2 pm at Kettering University.
The Flint River ‘Global Rivers Environmental Education Network’ (GREEN) is a nationally replicated program in its 26th year. It provides students with an outdoor hands-on experience in water quality testing. The capstone of the program is the GREEN Student Summit where students share this information with their teachers, peers, and community officials.
Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition, praised the teachers, mentors, community partners, and the students in anticipation of the Student Summit. “Teachers and mentors are vital to the success of GREEN. The real world knowledge they bring from their respective fields, as well as the hands-on assistance at the testing sites, further exposes students to the value of environmental stewardship and potential career paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The excitement generated through this program has lasting impacts in our communities and in the lives of all the participants.”
GREEN mentors offer assistance in both the classroom and at the testing site. Working closely with teachers, mentors speak with students about GREEN and introduce them to the tests they will perform. Mentors share knowledge about the test, the proper way to perform the tests, safety procedures, and how to interpret results. These volunteers offer insight as to what may cause a result to be high or low, as well as help students develop action plans.
Each year, the FRWC surveys students about their perceptions of the watershed before and after participation in Flint River GREEN, and asks students if they believe they can have an impact on the health and vitality of their local river. Last year, just 34% of the students entered this program believing that the Flint River is clean and healthy and 64% said they believe they can make a difference. After participating in this science based program, more than 80% of students emerged from the experience knowing that the Flint River is healthy and 90% know they can make a difference in the health of our Flint River…and want to help.
“The dramatic upward shift in those numbers and attitudes always inspires me, especially knowing that these young people now feel empowered to make a difference in their community, working to keep our watershed clean and healthy,” said Fedewa. “Our future is in good hands.”
Flint River GREEN is generously supported by the Genesee County Drain Commission’s Our Water program and General Motors. The program is run in partnership with the Genesee and Lapeer County Intermediate School Districts, Earth Force, Michigan State University Extension and 4H, Kettering University, and the City of Flint.
*Water quality test results for GREEN 2014 Class can be found on page 8 of the 2104 Flint River GREEN Annual Report at http://flintriver.org/blog/publications. Final result for 2015 will be released later in the year once all data are tabulated.
Flint River Watershed Coalition: Partnering to Protect, Preserve, and Improve the Flint River Watershed. The Flint River Watershed Coalition is an organization representing individuals, businesses, community organizations, and local units of government sharing a vision of a healthier Flint River Watershed. We envision a day when the future of our drinking water is secure and the integrity of the Flint River is protected. We believe that all people should have access to the river for recreation, swimming, and fishing as well as the economic value it provides to our communities. To learn more about the Flint River Watershed Coalition and Flint River GREEN, go to www.FlintRiver.org
The Federal Clean Water Act requires select municipalities identified by the EPA to obtain stormwater permits under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, including many in Genesee County that came together under the Genesee County Community Water Quality Consortium (GCCWQC). Led by the Genesee County Drain Commissioners Office, GCCWQC is a collection of municipalities, school districts, county organizations, and non-profits charged with overseeing the “Our Water” public education activities required by Phase II Stormwater regulations of the NPDES permit program. They bring awareness, education, and promote stewardship on the ways to prevent stormwater pollution and keep our waters clean. Flint River GREEN is a public education program administered by the Flint River Watershed Coalition and generously supported by the Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Office. It serves to support the Genesee County Community Water Quality Consortium compliance with the Phase II Storm Water Regulations of their NPDES permit. You can read more about the “Our Waters” program at: www.cleargeneseewater.org
Rebecca Fedewa, Executive Director Flint River Watershed Coalition
I’ve decided to let you in on a little secret: I’m not a fan of Earth Day. I understand its intent to raise awareness and engage people of all ages to do something good for the earth. But in my opinion…Every Day is Earth Day. I guess that is why I do what I do and love what I do.
My mission is to equip you and your neighbors, the farmer a couple miles down the road, the corporate rep and the small business owner, the kayakers and anglers, the high school science club and teachers…To give each of you the tools and the information you need to help protect, preserve, and improve the Flint River Watershed. I want to help you make every day Earth Day, too.
April ushers in the most exciting season to be in and around the river, creeks, and lakes of the Flint River Watershed. There are many opportunities to come out and experience the wonders of our watershed for yourself, and the FRWC offers at least two a week from May through October. Join members of your community at one of the many cleanup sites in Genesee and Lapeer Counties on April 25th. Come cycling with the Friends of the Flint River Trail. Journey down the Flint River in a kayak. Become a citizen scientist between April 30th and May 14th through our Benthic Monitoring program. Teach your neighbors how “Seven Simple Steps” will keep pollution out of your local storm drain and out of our river. Celebrate with us at one of the “Love Your Lakes” Picnics at Flint Park Lake or Thread Lake in July. Did you miss the Flint River Flotilla last year? Mark your calendar for August 8th because you have to experience this stretch of our river in the city of Flint.
“The FRWC offers at least two opportunities each week from May until the end of October for residents to experience the wonders of our watershed and help keep our river healthy. You won’t regret any of these experiences, and I can guarantee that you’ll walk away craving more! I challenge you to prove me wrong!”
I would be remiss if I did not address the elephant in the room. It has been a tough year for the image of our Flint River. It really took a beating, but don’t lose heart. I’m here to tell you that the state of our river and our watershed is good and consistently improving. I know this because with our volunteers’ help we have the scientific data to show it. The FRWC will remain vigilant, serving as the Voice of the River with the support of science and a cool head to guide our work.
Yes. There is work to be done, but there is also fun to be had. Join me in making Every Day Earth Day!