Replenishing the money stream

Grant supports continued expansion of Explore the Shores program  

STRONACH —The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has approved a $300,000 grant to create opportunities for thousands of people of all ages, needs and abilities to learn about Michigan’s world-class fishery and the importance of water stewardship at a special place on the Little Manistee River in Manistee County.

Funds will be used to develop recreational and educational facilities at the Little Manistee River weir that is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Division on a 102 acre DNR-owned site in Manistee County in Stronach Township.

The weir and egg taking operation supply salmon and steelhead eggs to hatcheries throughout Michigan. The weir and egg taking operation is a primary source of steelhead eggs for the steelhead fishery throughout the entire Great Lakes basin. Thousands of visitors, including hundreds of school children visit the site each year despite the absence of facilities to support visitation.

Funds will be used to:

  • Construct a universally accessible viewing platform directly below the weir for visitors to view thousands of migrating salmon and trout;
  • Develop a universally accessible interpretive trail system to support guided and self-guided tours of the weir and egg-taking operation;
  • Construct public restroom facilities.

The development of the site was identified by the Manistee-based Explore the Shores program as a high priority. The vision of the Explore the Shores program is to bring 1 million visitors of all ages, needs and abilities to the County by the year 2020 to access and enjoy the County’s bounty of water resources. Explore the Shores was developed with the support of the National and Michigan Easter Seals organization as an outgrowth of Envision Manistee County and is coordinated through a diverse team of local, state and federal organizations, governments and agencies.

“This project will let the world understand what thousands of people, including many school-age children, already know,” said Todd Kalish of DNR’s Fisheries Division who submitted the grant application that was drafted for the DNR by the Manistee-based Alliance for Economic Success. “The Little Manistee Weir is one of the most vital resources we have for sustaining populations of both Chinook salmon and steelhead. Visitors to the weir will experience enhanced amenities to enjoy viewing how we process eggs from salmon and steelhead to the benefit of a Great Lakes fishery that provides billions of dollars of economic benefits to the

Great Lakes region. We have one of the finest salmon and steelhead fisheries in the world and it’s important for people to understand why this is the case.”

“This is terrific news for Manistee County school kids and for students and teachers throughout the Great Lakes,” said Kevin Postma who teaches Advanced Placement Science at Manistee Area Public Schools. “Our students and thousands of others visit the weir annually for many purposes, including learning about the life cycle of migratory fish species and the importance of the Little Manistee River to the Great Lakes fishery.”

“This project hits the bull’s eye of our priorities for Michigan,” Kalish said. “The facilities will provide thousands with a positive experience and an opportunity to learn about our fishery and high class trout streams. It will also serve to encourage understanding and appreciation for fishing and hopefully get more people out on the water. Finally, the project will leverage our existing facilities and operations to provide economic benefits for Michigan and Manistee. This will become a destination for visitors worldwide.”

“Manistee County can rightfully lay claim as the place ‘where life meets water,” said Cyndy Fuller, executive director of the Alliance for Economic Success. “This is a great example of how we can work collaboratively with partners to realize the full potential of the place we occupy.

“We could not be more pleased to have had a hand in developing and supporting this proposal in partnership with the DNR’s Fisheries Division. We look forward to seeking additional resources to continue to support development of the site in a mutually acceptable way, including providing universal access for anglers, canoers and kayakers to enjoy the Little Manistee.

“Our thanks to the Land Trust and DNR Fisheries Division for investing in a project that will positively impact our quality of life and economic well-being.”

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The development of the Little Manistee Fisheries and Stewardship Center encompasses four phases:

Upgrades to weir and egg taking operations: 

The DNR has allocated about $130,000 in funding to make many of the improvements in the weir and egg taking facilities that were identified in their 2010 report: “Status and Recommended Updates — Little Manistee Weir.” The improvements involve the weir and egg taking operation, including the concrete raceways, ponds, buildings, facility appearance, power systems and other components.

Development of center for fisheries and stewardship: 

This phase includes the most significant, visible and needed components to support public use of the site that will be accomplished with the $300,000 grant, including:

  • Interpretive and educational trail featuring universal design and access that will take visitors in and around the weir and egg taking operations with displays and signage, including auditory features to support both guided and self-guided visitation.
  • A Viewing platform, made of environmentally-friendly, durable materials will be built immediately below the weir for visitors to view the large runs of migrating salmon and trout. The platform and trail to the platform will feature universal design and access. Displays and signage will enable visitors to learn about the migration of salmon and trout species.
  • A restroom facility that accommodates all Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements and features universal design will be built in close proximity to the parking, trail and viewing areas.

Build out — Center for fisheries and stewardship:

The Alliance for Economic Success will partner with the DNR in seeking sources of public and private funds to complete site development that is intended to include:

  • An interpretive/educational gazebo;
  • Universally accessible canoe/kayak launching facilities;
  • Universally accessible pathways upstream and downstream to support education and various forms of recreation, including sport angling;
  • Paved, uniform parking, including designated spaces for handicapper parking and space for bus loading and unloading;
  • A below ground viewing chamber to provide a unique and exceptional opportunity for viewing the salmon and trout migration;
  • Signage to help visitors find the site.
  • The Alliance is developing a web site for the Explore the Shores program that will promote visitation worldwide.

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