FLINT, MI–With a sunnier forecast than expected on Saturday afternoon, Genesee County residents boarded their watercrafts to participate in the Flint River Flotilla.
Genesee County residents brought their canoes, kayaks, rafts, inner tubes, inflatable islands and more to the Flint River, getting into the water by the firehouse at N. Grand Traverse and Kearsley. They floated down the river until they arrived by the Mott Park Golf Course across from McLaren Hospital. From there, they could enjoy food and music and more or head home for the day.
Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition and vice chair of the Flint River Corridor Alliance, said the alliance used to host a yearly triathlon in that same stretch of the river. After seeing how the athletic factor intimidated some, they decided to host a flotilla to be more inclusive to a wider range of people. “This is an event where you don’t need any special skills. All you need to be able to do is float in a tube,” Fedewa said. “It would be fun, easy, and accessible to people.”
Fedewa said that the Flint River has an unfairly bad reputation, but that it’s a strong resource for Genesee County residents. “It’s a great recreational amenity that flows right through our downtown and people are afraid of it,” she said. “We want to show people that they can get on the river and have a good time, and that it’s accessible and safe.” Fedewa estimated that nearly 100 people participated in the Flotilla, with 71 floating devices being in the water. Organizers thought that a bad weather forecast may have dissuaded some people from participating, even though the weather ended up being fine. Nearly 40 volunteers helped run the event.
“We’re doing it again next year, and we hope to have double the crowd next year,” Fedewa said. Flint resident Joseph Chambers came to the event with his brother, his sister-in-law, and some friends. As a group, they had a canoe, two kayaks, and a rubber raft. He said they try to get out on the water every other week, usually visiting Mott Lake, the Genesee Bell, and the Flint River from Irish Road down to Genesee Road.
“In Genesee County, especially when you’re outside of the cement park, it looks just like up north, and it’s right there,” Chambers said. “It takes us ten minutes to get to the water, and once you’re a little paddled down the way, you don’t see civilization. It’s just nature and trees.