|Preserving natural areas, rural and historical features of the River Raisin Watershed|
Three River Raisin Projects
by Sybil Kolon and Bob Kellum
he River Raisin is the focus of three projects that will help preserve many remaining natural areas in the watershed. Each project has its own objectives, yet each seeks a way to help maintain or restore a healthy eco-system.
The River Raisin Greenway Project (RRGP) will produce a plan this spring that will identify feasible corridors for walking and biking trails, with the dual aim of preserving resources and providing access to and through them.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) will provide funds to implement practices that minimize the impact of farming on water quality in three Michigan watersheds, including the River Raisin.
The River Raisin Watershed Initiative (RRWI) is focused on non-point source pollution and raising public awareness about the watershed.
The RVLT is involved in these three projects in various ways and seeks to relate them to other ongoing efforts. We hope to promote coordination that will allow human and financial resources to be used more effectively, thereby expanding the success of each program — and the quantity and quality of natural resources protected.
Nurturing and maintaining these projects will be key to ensuring that they yield long-term benefits to the watershed and the people who live in it. These benefits will not come without costs. There is much to ponder and discuss about such projects and how they will be implemented. There is an opportunity now for each of us to participate and help shape the future of the watershed.
RRGP — River Raisin Greenway Project
Imagine a greenway that invites us into its riverine setting and provides us with non-motorized routes between town and country and to favorite destinations such as parks, schools, neighborhoods and commercial areas. It is being done in other places in Michigan and the nation. We have the potential to create our own greenway system that would benefit both the community and the natural environment.
Experience in other areas has shown that greenways are an asset to the communities they serve. Users are respectful of the community resource as well as adjacent private property and actually patrol the route to keep it safe and clean. Parks can be created along the way as intermediate destinations and places to rest and picnic. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination.
The beginning of the greenway already exists on the old railroad bed starting at Trestle Park in Adrian and ending at Occidental Highway near Tecumseh. Known as the Kiwanis Trail, the seven mile stretch has an asphalt surface paid for by the City of Adrian and the Kiwanis.
The cities of Adrian and Tecumseh, the village of Clinton and all of the townships in between, as well as Bridgewater Township in Washtenaw County, have each signed an inter-local agreement that facilitates coordination of the efforts. Residents in the Manchester area are also exploring ways to have the study extended further up the River Raisin. Once the plan is completed this spring it can be used by any of the participating communities to apply for a grant for a specific section of the greenway, and will likely include a continuation of the Kiwanis Trail into Tecumseh. Grant applications to be made this year will request funding for additional phases of greenway construction. It will take years to implement, but if there is a will there will be a new way from Adrian to Manchester — on foot or bike. For more information contact Mark Gasche in the Adrian area, 517-263-2161; Pat Sorise in the Tecumseh area, 517-423-5602; or Jan Pittman in the Clinton area, 517-456-4837.
CREP — Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
The CREP encourages farmers to plant long-term resource-conserving covers to improve soil, water and wildlife resources. It is currently a pilot program in three watersheds in the state, including the River Raisin watershed. Farmers who agree to implement practices on eligible land for fifteen years will be compensated. Experience has taught us that previous practices of draining and plowing up wetlands, and farming to the edge of water courses, have negative effects on water quality. This program aims to give some of that land back to nature. The CREP will create buffers along streams and drains and take highly erodible land out of production; thereby decreasing the amount of soil that reaches the flowing water. This is good farming practice that improves downstream water quality.
Another aspect of the program will pay farmers who choose to participate to permanently restrict cultivation and development on eligible lands through conservation easements. The RVLT is participating in the steering committee that will determine the details of the easement program. CREP conservation easements will be similar to those landowners typically donate to land trusts, which accept them with a commitment to hold them in perpetuity. The CREP program would pay farmers for the value of the easement. It is likely that land trusts like the RVLT, because of their experience with easements, will also be involved in actual implementation of parts of the easement program. A farmer must first qualify for specific practices before a conservation easement will be considered under this program. The first step is to contact one of the CREP Technicians at the Lenawee Conservation District Office, at 517-263-7400. The Technician will then provide the landowner with information and additional contacts as needed.
RRWI — River Raisin Watershed Initiative
We will be able to see, touch and feel the results of the RRGP and the CREP, but the RRWI will help us think about and understand the watershed and how we relate to it. There is a stream survey for the adventurous. There are outreach programs to help people understand how their actions impact water quality and the simple things they can do to lessen those impacts. There is a computer mapping system (the Geo-Book) being released this spring to help communities consider the entire watershed and how their decisions will impact it.
For those who want to get their feet wet, the Stream Search will be on April 28th this year. Volunteers will be collecting biological indicators of water quality, including aquatic insects. Collections will be done at 13 sites, each led by a trained Stream Captain. Pre-registration is required. Call Robin Ryan at the Lenawee Conservation District, 517-263-7400, ext. 121. For other information on the watershed initiative contact Kathlene Kurowicki at ext. 102.
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Design by Kenny King.