Muskegon River Watershed projects in the works for Montcalm County

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 9:20 pm on Sunday, June 07, 2015

This white bridge is a popular draw for photographs and weddings at Artman Park, located on the Tamarack Creek just west of Howard City. The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly has a project underway to stabilize the park’s streambanks, which have been eroding. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

STANTON — The Muskegon River travels through 12 counties in Michigan, playing a major role in the Great Lakes State moniker.

A group of river-lovers have been working for almost two decades with the mission to preserve, protect and restore the Muskegon River Watershed, which encompasses more than 2,700 miles in west central Michigan.

The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners heard from Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) Director Terry Stilson at Monday’s meeting about some exciting projects in the works for Montcalm County. Stilson announced the MRWA recently obtained grant funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for multiple projects in Montcalm County. The EPA will fund almost $257,000 of the total $440,500 project, which is underway now through September 2017.

The goal of the project is to create 24 acres of riparian buffer/filter strips, 10 acres of grassed waterways, five livestock stream crossings and 2,000 acres of cover crops. The MRWA will be working with the Montcalm Conservation District and local farmers to ensure the project’s success.

An artesian well is one of the charming features of Minnie Farmer Park, located on the Tamarack Creek just east of Howard City. The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly has a project underway to stabilize the park’s streambanks, which have been eroding. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

Plans are also in the works for Tamarack Creek, a tributary of the Muskegon River; specifically streambank stabilization at Artman Park just west of Howard City and Minnie Farmer Park just east of Howard City, both of which have been suffering severe erosion. The Tamarack Creek sub-watershed of the Muskegon River Watershed was named a “critical” area in the MRWA’s watershed management plan.

Soft engineering with the help of coconut coir logs will be implemented to help preserve the creekbanks at both Howard City-area parks. The MRWA also plans to partner with Tri County Area Schools to have students plant native plant buffers along 60 percent of the creek shoreline.

The MRWA recently helped with a tree planting project in Lakeview and is planning a rain garden for that village in the near future. The MRWA will host a “water fair” today at Artman Park, in which Tri County fourth-graders will partner with high school students to learn about the watershed. The MRWA is also creating geographic information system (GIS) road and stream crossing mapping for Montcalm County.

The MRWA was created by volunteers in 1998 to address the needs of the Muskegon River and to assure that future generations are able to enjoy the river. The group was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2000 and received a grant from the Peter Wege Foundation and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust in 2001, allowing them to hire two full-time employees. Another part-time employee was hired in 2011 to help with clerical responsibilities. Ferris State University provides office space and technology support for the MRWA at the university’s main campus in Big Rapids.

In its 17 years of existence, the MRWA has compiled an extensive data repository of documents and links to watershed oriented data, which can be accessed at online.

Watershed enthusiasts are gearing up for a “Voyage of Discovery” paddling trip of the Tamarack Creek on June 5 and the Little Muskegon River on June 6. The trip will begin at Minnie Farmer Park and will travel to Artman Park and then to the West County Line on June 5. The group plans to camp overnight in Morley and then travel the Little Muskegon to Croton on June 6.

Stilson invited Montcalm County commissioners to participate in the two-hour voyage from Minnie Farmer Park to Artman Park via a canoe or kayak; however, there were no volunteers to receive the invitation at Monday’s meeting.

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