Weir upgrades help visitors enjoy views

STRONACH TWP. — Visitors to the Little Manistee River Weir this fall might think they’re in the wrong place.

The weir is nearly unrecognizable after renovations took place this summer to upgrade the site for accessibility and convenience. There are new pathways throughout the site, paved handicap parking spaces, rustic restroom facilities and a viewing deck overlooking the weir.

“We want to encourage people by the droves to come out,” said Tim Ervin, consultant for Alliance for Economic Success (AES). “We want people to know about this. Everybody that I have suggested come here is just blown away.”

The weir, located on Old Stronach Road in Stronach Township, is always open to the public.

Improvements are just in time for the salmon run, which takes place from late August until October. Salmon have already begun to gather at the base of the weir. Egg taking, which allows the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Division to maintain fish populations through hatcheries, usually takes place in early October.

“It’s not only Manistee County, it’s all of Michigan that still has a lack of understanding of just how important the Lake Michigan fishery is for salmon and trout,” Ervin said. “It’s about a $4 billion economy for Michigan alone. This has a huge role in supporting those $4 billion; it produces all of the steelhead and a large portion of the Chinook salmon that are hatched in hatcheries.”

There are also plans to install a kayak and canoe launch before the snow falls. Educational signs will be put up during spring. In the more distant future, there’s a hope to install pathways along the river on either side of the weir.

Photos for the signs will be taken during the egg taking.

Each year, about 400 to 700 students visit the weir on field trips to learn about the egg-taking operation.

“We’re focused on amenities for those groups when they’re here, and for the thousands of people who come here when there’s no staff,” said Shana Ramsey, DNR interpreter. “We want them to have the opportunity to learn about what happens here, and how important it is to the fish hatcheries throughout Michigan.”

Ramsey was at the weir this week working with other DNR officials on sign plans.

There will be about eight to 10 signs that will lead visitors around the site for a self-guided tour, she said. Signs will focus on egg-taking, stewardship and the history of the weir.

“I haven’t been here since the work’s been done and I’m absolutely floored by how conducive it will be for people to come down here of all ages and abilities,” she said. “This is beautiful; it’s a huge resource to be able to view the fish below the weir. It’s just awesome.”

Doug Anderson, of Manistee, and his sister Bev Volgstadt, of Ohio, visited the weir on Wednesday for the first time since the renovations, and agreed that the observation deck and sidewalks are good additions.

“This is nice; it’s beautiful,” Volgstadt said.

The improvements make the weir an Explore the Shores site, which is a collection of parks and recreation areas in Manistee County that are universally accessible, provide educational opportunities, and connect people to rivers, lakes and beaches.

The upgrades were funded by a DNR Trust Fund grant of $300,000, and were secured through a joint application effort through the AES and the DNR Fisheries Division.

For directions or more information about the weir, visit the Michigan DNR’s website.

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Posted by Justine McGuire

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