News Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

Help make River Bluff Park dreams real

By Scott Sullivan
Want to help restore Saugatuck Township’s River Bluff Park? A public open house Thursday, June 27, in the Saugatuck-Douglas District Library, 174 Center St., Douglas, will be your chance.
From 5:30 to 7 p.m., township parks committee leaders will share their ideas and invite yours about improving recreation and restoring Kalamazoo River shoreline r at the 27-acre park.
River Bluff, east of Blue Star Highway and south of Old Allegan Road, is largely wooded and undeveloped, with a few trails used for hiking, running, bird watching, shoreline fishing and exploring nature.
With U.S. EPA Superfund moneys gathered from upstream polluters, Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration trustees have granted the township $57,000 and $41,000 grants towards River Bluff shoreline remediation engineering, plus up to a $500,000 match towards a larger park plan outlined by GEI consultants that would furnish:
• Wayfinding signage from Blue Star Highway,

  • A picnic lawn area with children’s swings,
  • Paved parking lot,
  • Boat landing with picnic shelter,
  • Natural-surface trail to a river overlook
  • Public interpretation center,
  • 0.4 miles of natural-surface trails including two footbridges leading from the bluff to river frontage and the boat landing
  • Historical marker at the park entrance,
  • Barbecue grills and picnic tables and
  • Increased ADA accessibility to the park.
    “The natural geomorphology of the river system,” says the project narrative, “has been altered by increased boat traffic and interstate construction, so erosion is a problem along the shoreline where the river turns east of the I-196 crossing. The project would focus on using natural channel design principles to stabilize and protect the river shoreline. 
    “The restoration would construct up to 1,200 feet of bioengineered stable shoreline and related habitat improvements. The project would also include installing toe wood, native plants and rocks to stabilize the most highly-eroding sections of riverbank and improve riparian habitat.
    “Stabilizing the actively-eroding bank would reduce the sediment load into Kalamazoo Lake and prevent additional park land from slipping away,” the narrative continues.
    “Access would be expanded by using areas disturbed for construction to enlarge the natural surface walking path.
    “This project would benefit fish, aquatic invertebrates, and sediment and water quality by reducing erosion and increasing vegetation, plus a large woody structure that provides fish areas to hide and feed,” GEI foresees outcomes.
    “In addition, it would provide for improved public access to the shoreline for recreational use while directing shoreline use and fishing to designated area on and along the path, thus protecting other shoreline areas from trampling and over-use.
    “Initially, the river group trustees would fund design, coordination, outreach, baseline data collection and engineering of the project. 
    “Once implementation and monitoring costs were determined, the trustees would re-evaluate the project’s feasibility,” says the narrative. This would include seeking additional state and federal grants towards the work.

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