$880,000 from Natural Resources Trust Fund Goes for Projects in the Huron River Watershed

The Natural Resources Trust Fund continues to be a critical source of funding for major projects in the Huron River watershed. In the 2020 grant cycle, about $880,000 will go to five important projects, two of which are immediately along the Huron River Water Trail. The Huron River Watershed Council supported each of these projects.

In Milford, improvements to Central Park are moving forward with an award of $43,800. This project will build a walking trail and an accessible canoe/kayak launch in Milford’s Central Park. The Village of Milford is an official Trail Town on the Huron River Water Trail. The new accessible launch location will further integrate the natural river corridor with the Village of Milford, enhancing Central Park as Milford’s gateway to the water trail. (The EZ Launch accessible kayak launch at the Gallup Canoe Livery, pictured above).

In Ypsilanti, a proposal for a non-motorized crossing at Huron Street over I-94 was awarded $300,000. The project will transform a crossing that currently has no pedestrian route and enhance connectivity in the community and among major land trails in the Huron River corridor.

The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority was awarded funding for two projects totaling $492,700. In Dexter-Huron Metropark, improvements to a picnic area, parking, and river access will move forward in one of the most popular stretches of the water trail. A floating, universal access launch is a part of this project. Improvements here will improve many land and water trails that periodically intersect along the river. Further down river in Lower Huron Metropark, an extension of the Iron Belle Trail will better connect the metroparks to Belleville and the surrounding communities. This has potentially huge benefits for connecting land and water trails. This area has historically been challenging to navigate by bike or by foot.

In Hamburg Township, a bridge will be revitalized along the Lakelands Trail, a popular land trail that will connect communities along the Upper Huron River, between Island Lake and Pinckney State Recreation Areas. The Lakelands Trail is a great way for anglers with a bike to get to their favorite fishing spots, and it provides an excellent route to connect a pedal-paddle trip along the Upper Huron.

The $880,000 in funds from this trust fund cycle, along with $1.28 million in the last cycle that benefitted the water trail, demonstrate how valuable the river corridor is to area residents. These investments are well worth it. More than 125,000 unique visitors enjoy the Huron River in a given year, and during the pandemic, recreational use of the river was as high as 400% of normal in some locations. These improvements will help the water trail bear the growth in visitation and use, preserving the natural features that make the Huron River a special natural resource in Southeast Michigan.

Feel good, do good

River culture is a vital part of the vibrant communities along the Huron River Water Trail. In August, Rivers Edge Brewing Company in Milford will honor this connection by donating a portion of the proceeds from the sales of its State Fair SMaSH IPA to the Huron River Watershed Council through the Feelgood Tap program.

Huron River upstream of Milford's Central Park

Huron River upstream of Milford’s Central Park and River’s Edge Brewing Company. Kory Zhao is a freelance writer/editor with a passion for kayaking and environmental issues living in Saline, MI.

“I’ve been wanting to work with the watershed council because we’re right here on the river in Milford,” says Rivers Edge co-owner Ryan Wiltse. “The river is vital to our culture and community and the watershed council is doing great work with the river trails.”

Rivers Edge joined the Feelgood Tap program in 2015, says Wiltse. Participating bars and breweries select a beer each month and donate the proceeds from its sale to local nonprofits.

Every year the Rivers Edge staff kayaks together down the river, Wiltse says. The brewery’s location is ideal resting point for those kayaking from Proud Lake Recreation Area who want a drink or meal. Wiltse recommends kayakers beach their crafts at Milford’s Central Park just past the brewery and walk back. It’s easier than trying to climb the slick rocks that line the bank next to the brewery’s sign.

Kayaking from the Proud Lake to Central Park is a easy 2.5-mile trip that leads you around bends and under five bridges. My recent weekday paddling trip saw several couples fishing or coasting along enjoying the scenery. I started at Heavner Canoe and Kayak Rental where I was warned that weekends have been busy, so weekend renters should plan ahead.

The river was high when I set off, with the aquatic plant life sticking to my paddles at the launch site. In shallower sections I spotted striped fish. The lovely isolation I experienced in the state recreation area slowly gave way to civilization as I passed the first bridge. The river winds past Potter’s Field and Oak Grove Cemetery, where I spotted a great blue heron nestled along the river bank. A mourning dove watched my progress through the second bridge, while a yellow billed cuckoo eyed me from a private dock. During the hour and half paddle, I also spotted a hawk circling above, two pairs of sleepy mute swans, red winged blackbirds and a northern cardinal. Throughout the trail, I navigated around logs and trees that formed islands covered in a variety of mating dragon flies.

After stopping at Central Park, Wiltse recommends continuing downriver to the Kensington Metropark. “The water is slightly faster moving when you get past the dam and there are just some really great places to stop and relax,” he said.


  • Proud Lake Recreation Area’s public canoe launch is at 3540 N. Wixom Road in Milford, (map). Drivers should turn at the “Huron River Fishing Site” to get to the launch parking lot.
  • Renters can visit the Heavner Canoe and Kayak Rental at 2775 Garden Road.
  • Both parking areas require state Recreation Passports, which can be purchased with cash at the entrance booths.
  • River’s Edge Brewing Company is at 125 South Main Street, Suite 400 in Milford. Hours: Tues-Thurs. 4-11 p.m.; Friday 2 p.m.-Midnight; Saturday: Noon-Midnight; Sunday: Noon-9 p.m.
  • Learn more to see and do in Milford, one of five trail towns on the Water Trail.

Thanks to our guest blogger Kory Zhao for this post! Kory is a freelance writer/editor with a passion for kayaking and environmental issues living in Saline, MI.