January 23, 2019

City of Au Gres receives $30K grant for kayak launch

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Au GRES — The city of Au Gres has received a $30,000 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network to go toward the establishment of an accessible kayak launch at the Harbor Park property.

The property is situated along the Au Gres River and, with the Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant kayak launch, would give residents and visitors access to more than 50 miles of Lake Huron frontage and about 150 miles of river, according to City Manager Dale Wiltse.

“This is the first step in making the Au Gres area a destination kayak area,” Wiltse said. “By having the universally accessible kayak launch, it gives people of all capabilities a place to get in and out of a kayak and enjoy the river.”

In his application for the grant, Wiltse explained that silent water activities, such as kayaking, are the largest sector in the tourism industry of Arenac County and that the water route in Au Gres is underutilized.

In addition to the launch on the Harbor Park property, Wiltse said the city is also looking to set up launches on three other parcels of property along the river.

The kayak launch is among many additions being planned for the property, including a farmers market pavilion, fishing piers, a playground and potentially more, Wiltse said.

“This kayak launch is a large piece of the puzzle to complete our plan for the harbor site,” Wiltse said. “Everything is just falling into place and next year, you’ll see a lot of changes on the harbor site.”

If everything goes according to plan, Wiltse said residents can expect to have the kayak launch by Memorial Day weekend.

Wiltse said the city is continuing to apply for grants for the project and is still waiting to hear back from some of the ones it already applied for, adding that overall, the process is going better than expected.

In early December, the city received a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to go toward the development of the city’s Harbor Park site.

In the Dec. 12 edition of the Independent, Wiltse said the MEDC funding is not set aside for any specific part of the project, but will be used primarily to secure other grants that require matching funds from the city.

“There are a lot of grants out there that won’t fund a whole project, they will fund a portion of it,” Wiltse said at that time. “Most organizations feel that, that way, you have a vested interest in that project.”

At its November meeting, the Au Gres City Council approved the design and construction of a farmers market pavilion at the Harbor Park property. The structure will be an open-air, 40x68-foot pavilion with a steel roof, and the city hopes to have it completed by Memorial Day 2019. The pavilion is just one of the first additions that will be supported by matching funds from the MEDC grant.

As for the fishing pier and playground, Wiltse said a timeline is unclear at this point, but residents may have to wait until 2020 for those additions.

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