If there’s a river running by, use it

State of the Union (Enterprise)
Dan Pepper, Interim Editor
While the PCBs and useless old dams are still there, they don’t have to define the Kalamazoo River.

I was glad to see recently Plainwell will again have a kayak business setting up in the building in Fannie Pell Park.

For one, it’s always good to have something occupied when a city spends money to build it, but more because it’s another great step toward Plainwell and Otsego utilizing the river that runs through them as a draw, rather than just seeing it as a problem.

While the PCBs and useless old dams are still there, they don’t have to define the Kalamazoo River.

I grew up canoeing on the Sturgeon River in the U.P. with my folks and paddling along. We’d pile into our canoe—or as my sister and I got bigger our canoe and a borrowed canoe—and put in at one county road and take out at the next one. The Sturgeon in that section is nice, meandering and sandy, but it’s really a great river as further up it offers a bit of whitewater experience as it winds through the bottom of the Sturgeon River Gorge, the Grand Canyon of the U.P., according to some northerly optimists.

The main activity besides paddling was always dodging snags, where you’d have to decide which side of the downed tree in the river to go on. Good problem solving activity. Plus, we would stop on a convenient sandbar and eat lunch. Good memories.

It’s a nice form of recreation to me, just to be out on the river. I think it’s the idea you have to follow the river, generally, but moving along at your pace and seeing what’s around the next bend is always fun. You see various kinds of wildlife, with all sorts of birds, some turtles and maybe an occasional otter.

The Kalamazoo seems to me like it has the potential to be the sort of family-floating-down-the-river-taking-it-easy experience I had growing up and I hope people enjoy it. I’ll probably head out and do the trip again this summer. While I’m a city boy now, I do like to occasionally get out in the greenery and wilderness-ish spots.

Work was done by the Environmental Protection Agency a couple years ago to remove the Plainwell Dam (located in Otsego Township, naturally) and putting in a spot to easily portage around the so-called Plainwell #2 Dam, which is not really a dam like the others.

I’m not sure that was strictly needed, because I did see three people and a golden retriever go over the dam in a classic aluminum canoe. But, not everyone has a golden retriever, so it’s good they built the portage spot.

It also seems like a very good thing to have the City of Otsego and Michigan Department of Natural Resources on the same page about getting rid of the Otsego City Dam (actually, in Otsego City) and the Otsego Township Dam (the one visible from River Road on the Kalamazoo, not the one that forms the lake at the end of Pine Creek). Whether the optimism I’m hearing about them getting applied-for grants to begin preliminary work is warranted, I don’t know, but I’m thinking it is. And the preliminary work can basically function to drag the feds into the work of removing the dam.

It’s just smart to recognize your strengths and not leave them unutilized. When you’re short, you should build your basketball game around post moves and when you’ve got a good-sized river flowing through town you should try to emphasize that.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534 or (269) 685-9571.

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