7/24/2013 10:59:00 AM Inland waterway to be designated Heritage Water Trail
Submitted to Harbor Light Newspaper
By Beth Anne Piehl,Emmet County
The historic and scenic Inland Waterway that winds nearly 40 miles through Emmet and Cheboygan counties will become a designated Heritage Water Trail, thanks to recent grant support from the Coastal Zone Management program.
In a collaborative effort, Mackinaw City, Cheboygan and Emmet Counties, assisted by the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, have received $20,000 to organize a paddle trail on the Inland Waterway. The grant award was announced in early July.
The designated water trail will provide additional features such as signage and access for the public to enjoy the Inland Waterway and to learn about its many assets and its unique history, said Laurie Gaetano, Emmet County's Parks and Recreation Director.
"The Inland Waterway is a major recreational resource for our two counties and for many years we've looked at ways to enhance the experience for its users," Gaetano said. "We're going to look at the entire route and develop a plan to promote the water trail as another asset of the region as a whole."
The Inland Waterway is a 38-mile-long historic water route that connects Cheboygan, Indian River, Alanson, Conway and Petoskey to Lake Huron. Designating it as a "water trail" will extend a water route into the interior of both counties along with providing a link to two Great Lakes coastal water trails. In addition, the project will update the Huron Shores Blueways coastal water trail from Cheboygan to Mackinaw City and link with the Lake Michigan coastal water trail, currently under development, from Mackinaw City to Petoskey.
"These grants enhance public access to coastal areas," said Steve Schnell, Cheboygan County Community Development Director. "They encourage stewardship of coastal, cultural, and historic resources and increase accessibility for all users. Our multi-county area has been looking at trail development, promotion and asset-identification for several years. Waterways are a major component of that planning process. We're glad to be moving forward with Emmet County in enhancing the Inland Waterway experience."
Many entities will be involved in the development - now and into the future - of the Inland Waterway Heritage Water Trail plan. The regional effort will involve communities, agencies, organizations, businesses and the general public in the trail development process.
Planning will involve seven state parks, numerous other parks, such as Maple Bay State Forest Campground and Camp Petosega, two river locks and several communities, said Richard Deuell, with the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments.
"With the North Eastern State Trail, North Central State Trail and North Western State Trail paralleling segments, another unique opportunity associated with the Inland Waterway trail will be 'Paddle and Pedal trips,'" Deuell said.
The first task is to organize a water trail team with representatives from communities, tribal and local governments, state parks, agencies, businesses, paddle clubs and individuals. The working team will inventory access sites, routes and route assets, such as cultural, business, recreational, historic and natural resources creating a brief plan will summarize the asset inventories, provide recommendations to communities, and provide guidelines for future development of the water trail.
"The primary end product will be to incorporate the water trail and amenities into the statewide Great Lake Water Trail web site," said Deuell.
The team also will produce route maps and a water trail brochure. The project timeline is July 2013 to March 2014.
If you would like to volunteer to participate in a paddle inventory of the water trail and gather information about the cultural, historic, recreational, business, and natural resource assets. Contact: NEMCOG, Richard Deuell, 989-705-3733
The Michigan Office of the Great Lakes this year has awarded $342,141 in Coastal Zone Management grants to 10 coastal communities, nonprofit organizations and universities for comprehensively plans for local, regional or statewide coastal water trails along the Great Lakes. Among its missions is to support local and regional waterfront redevelopment plans and facilitate water trail development within Michigan and among its neighboring states.
More about the Inland Waterway
The Inland Waterway is Michigan's longest chain of rivers and lakes, spanning 38.2 miles through Pickerel Lake, Crooked Lake and the Crooked River, and moving northeasterly to Burt Lake (partially in Emmet and Cheboygan counties), and through the Indian River, Mullett Lake, the Cheboygan River and eventually into Lake Huron at Cheboygan.
The waterway can handle boats up to 65-feet long with up to a five-foot draft; though navigation on the Crooked River generally limits boats to 25 feet. The route features two locks: the Cheboygan River Lock and the Crooked River Lock.
At the waterway's north end, boaters are just 15 miles from Mackinac Island and about 18 miles from the Mackinac Bridge. Water flows from Crooked Lake to the Cheboygan River and into Lake Huron.
The Inland Waterway was originally used by Native Americans to avoid the strong waves around Waugoshance Point on Lake Michigan. Consequently, at least 50 Native American encampments have been discovered along the shores of the Inland Water Route. One such encampment, located in Ponshewaing, revealed artifacts dating back over 3,000 years.
The Inland Water Route Historical Society Museum is located downtown Alanson, off U.S. 131, and includes many historical displays about the history of this unique Michigan asset. www.iwrhs.com