FLINT (WJRT) – (08/05/15) – Saturday afternoon, the downtown portion of the Flint River will be jam-packed with inflatables, kayaks and canoes.

“It’s all about fun. For most people, it’s their first time, so we definitely welcome amateurs,” said Janet Van De Winkle, of the Flint River Corridor Alliance.

Last year’s inaugural Flint River Flotilla saw several hundred people floating down the river. While the event is non-competitive, there are a few prizes up for grabs.

“We even have contests for the most colorful, the most spirit. Corporate award,” Van De Winkle said.

Participants will leave their cars at Mott Park Golf Course, then take a shuttle to the launching point.

“We’re starting at Tenacity Brewing, the fire station on Grand Traverse and Kearsley. We’ll float down through Chevy Commons, float through Mott Park, and end up at Mott Park Golf Course,” Van De Winkle said.

The Floatilla serves as a fundraiser for the Flint River Corridor Alliance.

“It supports projects like the restoration of Hamilton Dam, efforts in Chevy Commons and a number of projects that will increase the usability of the river and access to the river,” said Michael Freeman, of the Flint River Corridor Alliance.

Over the last year, Dan Snyder, of the Flint River Corridor Alliance, says he’s seen an increase of wildlife along the waterfront downtown.

“I’ve seen eagles. It’s crazy what you can actually see, and deer. We see deer, too,” he said.

The Corridor Alliance hopes that the Flotilla helps people realize that the Flint River is safe for recreational activity.

“We have a legacy that we’re trying to fight as far as the perception of the river. The truth is that the river is actually clean and it’s a great asset for our community,” Freeman said.

The Flotilla gets underway at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Rafts will be for sale on site.

For registration information, click the link in the ‘Related Links’ section of this story.http://www.abc12.com/home/headlines/Flint-River-Flotilla-returns-this-weekend-for-second-year–320807221.html

Float your way down the Flint River for what is guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind, fun filled afternoon. The Flint River Corridor Alliance (FRCA) hosts the second annual Flint River Flotilla Saturday, August 8. People are encouraged to enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the river in a flotation device of their choosing. Inner tubes, kayaks, rafts and canoes are all welcome. The cost is $10 per person with children under 12 admitted for free, and all proceeds benefit the FRCA.

The Flotilla route will begin at Tenacity Brewing, 119 N. Grand Traverse Street, and end at Mott Park Golf Course. On the day of the event, participants should drop their vehicles off at the Mott Park Golf Course on Sunset Drive (east of Ballenger Highway near McLaren Hospital). A shuttle will transport people and their flotation devices from the golf course to the registration and starting location at Tenacity Brewing. Participants with larger flotation devices, such as a canoe or kayak, should drop them off at the launch site before proceeding to Mott Park Golf Course to drop off their vehicle.

The Flotilla starts at 1 pm with registration beginning at noon. In addition, participants can pre-register online.

FRCA Director, Janet Van De Winkle, is confident that the Flotilla will have an even larger turnout than last year. “We had over 100 participants last year and hope to see even more people on the river for this year’s event,” she says. It is expected that the participation level will be doubled this year.

The Flint River Corridor Alliance sees the event as a way to emphasize the resources the Flint River has to offer. Vanessa Ferguson, FRCA Development Coordinator, wants people to see the positive aspects of the river. “It’s important to change the perception that many people have,” she says. “It can be used as a great recreational resource in our community,” Vanessa continues.

Although the Flotilla is not a competitive event, awards will be given out at Mott Park immediately following. The awards will include “Highest Energy,” “Spirit,” and “Most Colorful”. A new award this year, “Captain of Industry,” will be passed out to the business that has the most participants.

Vanessa sees the Flint River Flotilla as a fun opportunity for the community. “This is something unique that is right in our backyard,” she explains. “A lot of people will go up north for similar events and don’t realize that they can have just as much fun right at home.”

The event will occur rain or shine. Severe weather may delay start time.

The FRCA is a community-based organization that develops and sustains projects in the Flint River Corridor. For additional information about the FRCA and the annual Flotilla event, call 810.241.6966.

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Our committee will be meeting at our office at 1300 Bluff St. at Kettering University’s Innovation Center at 10 a.m.  We will be making plans for the 2017 Flint River Flotilla to take place on Saturday, August 5, 2017.

For more information contact vferguson@frcalliance.org

mliveFLINT, MI — The debut of a parkland plan Thursday, April 10, for Flint’s Chevy in the Hole site got great reviews from the 70 or so people who showed up to see what’s in store for the old industrial property. Dozens of Flint people – many of whom raised their hands when asked who worked at the plant or were involved in the 1930s Sit-Down Strike, or had relatives who did – showed overwhelming support for the project. “I think it’s fabulous,” Sue Goering of Flint said. “I’m a walker, so being able to have a place like this to go to will be great.”

The plan includes transforming the former Chevrolet manufacturing site, a 60-acre space covered in concrete slabs, into a public park with walking paths intertwined in low-maintenance native plants, greens and wetlands that should help minimize storm water management costs.

“Not only is the name (of the site) Chevy in the Hole because of the topography of the site…it’s actually been a hole in the fabric of the community for many years,” said Megan Hunter, Flint’s chief planning officer. “(The new plan) really furthers the vision of the master plan…In a way, the master plan is going back to the 1920s plan – the John Nolan plan – a plan that really understood the importance of green space and connecting the community together.”

The new name? The Chevy Commons.

Project officials explained to Flint residents that a lot of thought has been put into paying homage to the site’s history, even using names that date back to Native American days. The city of Flint owns the property, and has created a plan to turn the former automobile manufacturing site wasteland into a green, public area called Chevy Commons that would allow bike and walking paths from all Flint’s neighborhoods to intersect in common ground.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Leora Campbell of Flint said, adding that she’s glad, after several years of talking about change, to finally see concrete plans and funding. “If you look at the city’s history, you’ll see that Flint is a comeback city. It might take some time, but Flint is a comeback city.” Thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the first phase of renovations – which will involve dumping dirt over the concrete and installing a parking area, walking paths and shrubs in about a third of the space – is scheduled to begin this August.

If all goes according to plan, the completed portion of Chevy Commons will be open for public use next spring.

FLINT, MI – Friends of the Flint River Trail will begin its regular Sunday bicycle rides through Flint starting May 5. Rides are held Sundays through October starting at 2 p.m. at the Flint Farmers’ Market. In the first trip of the season, riders will pedal about 10 miles from the Farmers’ Market to Stepping Stone Falls, 5161 Branch Road, and back, weaving through UM-Flint and Mott College campuses. Other typical routes have riders cycling north along the Flint River to Bluebell Beach, 5500 Bray Road, and a 17-mile round trip heading northeast into Genesee Township for ice cream.

Rides usually span 10 to 12 miles with a short break in the middle and light refreshments at the end. The Sunday rides are free of charge and no advance registration is required. Riders must bring their own bicycles. Friends of the Flint River Trail strongly encourage riders to wear helmets. Jack Minore, co-chair of the Friends of Flint River Trail, said last year there were nearly 40 riders every Sunday from all over Genesee County, living in about 25 to 30 different zip codes.

“Michigan has more miles of bike riding trails of any other state in the union,” said Minore, a board member of Flint River Watershed Coalition and Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

Some riders had the opportunity to see deer and fox along the Flint River to Bluebell Beach last year, Minore said. “People don’t realize there is a nice, rustic part of the river,” he said.
Friends of Flint River Trail .JPG Sunday riders gather near Bluebell Beach in Flint during last year’s bike ride kickoff event. Photo courtesy Linda Johnson-Barnes Minore, who has been on about 800 rides since Friends of The Flint River Trail started the events 15 years ago, said the rides are family-oriented and flow at a leisurely pace.

“I like it because we’re introducing people to good bike riding,” he said. Friends of the Flint River Trail hosts “Third Saturday Rides,” on the third Saturday of every month of the ride season, with the first one starting May 18 at 10 a.m. on the Southern Links Trail beginning at Columbiaville Trailhead in the village of Columbiaville in Lapeer County. The ride is about 20 miles in length.

A Flint River Trail cleanup is also scheduled for Saturday, April 27, at 9 a.m. Those interested can meet at Veteran’s Park on James P. Cole Boulevard. Garbage bags will be provided by Keep Genesee Beautiful, and lunch will be provided by HealthPlus and Kroger and Meijer Pierson Road locations.

Questions about rides can be directed to Bruce Nieuwenhuis at bnbaton@gmail.com or Jack Minore at jacksonmin@aol.com. Further information can be found at the Friends of the Flint River Trail website.

mliveFLINT, MI — There’s no question the city of Flint is struggling with the Flint River as a water source, but we have to commend the local collaborative effort to embrace the river for recreation and economic development opportunities.

The Flint River is an integral part of Flint’s heritage, and it’s past time that the riverbank becomes a showpiece in the city’s comeback story. We urge city leaders to capitalize on the momentum of recent river developments and actively seek out the means to fund further improvements, such as replacing or repairing the dilapidated Hamilton Dam and naturalizing the river where it’s overwhelmed by concrete.

The opportunity to expand and develop an attractive urban center is dependent on the health of the river corridor, a thread that boasts two universities and travels through prime real estate in the city’s core.

We hope it’s a sign of positive things to come that four properties near the river and Grand Traverse Street have been purchased by a private developer with the goal of beautification and economic development. And, it’s encouraging to see progress in other areas along the riverbank, including the transformation of the blighted Chevy in the Hole wasteland into a green space to be called Chevy Commons.

Suggestions for improving the riverbank shouldn’t be dismissed over present financial concerns.

Downtown, work will be starting this spring and summer with a $300,000 grant that will fund improvements to Riverbank Park. Positive change can’t happen without first having vision. With powerbrokers like Kettering University, the Genesee County Land Bank and a coalition of river advocates behind some of the various redevelopment efforts, Flint has a good shot at making these dreams a reality.

A Flint River transformation is certainly not a novel idea. In 2005, a planning firm developed a “Flint River District Strategy” that depicted a campus town near Kettering, complete with research parks, a green riverbank and student housing.

At the time, critics said the idea was too costly. But suggestions for improving the riverbank shouldn’t be dismissed over present financial concerns. This is about setting goals for the future and working toward them. In 20, 30 or 40 years — because of the foresight of community leaders — we hope visitors will be able to enjoy a new Flint River transformed for the better.

FLINT, MI — Kettering University officials’ vision for the campus and community is all about growth, development and moving toward a collaborative environment.

Building on what Kettering has already begun to establish over the past few years, the university’s focus on future development doesn’t just benefit students, but the entire community. “We’re invested. We’re planning expansions and growth into the community,” said Kettering University President Robert McMahan. “We are part of the community. The success of Flint is our success.” Looking at the newly released 10-year Kettering master plan, the university’s wish list includes new buildings, green space, community opportunities, learning opportunities, creative space on campus and a connection to downtown Flint’s positive momentum.

Founded in 1919 as the School of Automobile Trades, the university has gone through a lot of change and growth in the past century. McMahan has been with the university since 2011 and has focused on cleaning up blight around the campus and the University Avenue corridor, as well as bringing new educational opportunities for the students and the community.The master plan is one more step with that mindset. The creation of the master plan was more than a year in the making to ensure it fit the concept of the university and its outreach and served the students as technology and learning advances.

See a breakdown of Kettering’s master plan here.

University leaders wanted social spaces where the campus could come together as a community and collaborate. The first project on the list is a new building to act as the Learning Commons. It’s what McMahan referred as a hybrid building, where a mixed use of spaces will be in one facility. The Learning Commons, set to be built west of Kettering’s campus center, will form a “quad” with the rec center, Campus Center and residence hall. The building will be a modern, multi-use academic student life building with open spaces, food service and a new, modern library.

It will have open spaces and a lot of natural light. It will include space for academic classrooms, public art and design and collaborative space. “It becomes a very engaging space that people want to be at,” McMahan said. The Learning Commons would also connect with the campus center by means of an enclosed walkway. But it’s more than a walkway. That space will be interactive with art and usable rooms.

A project such as the Learning Commons could cost anywhere from $40 million to $60 million, McMahan said. As a fundraising campaign is already underway, McMahan hopes to break ground on the project within three years and have a ribbon cutting by 2019. That’s just the beginning of what Kettering officials have envisioned. Future phases include new dorms to replace Thompson Hall, which was built in 1969.

The new dorms will feature open, collaborative spaces that mirror what will be available in academic spaces on campus. Green space, athletic fields and outdoor recreation areas will be added. After that, a set of academic buildings will be created with the same open, collaborative mindset as the rest of the master plan. The academic building corridor will move across Chevrolet Avenue connecting both sides with an enclosed bridge, which will also be an active space with classrooms and other usable space.

“Kettering University’s master plan is highly ambitious, but very appropriate for the opportunities that the campus and the surrounding community have here in the 21st century,” said Flint Mayor Dayne Walling. “Universities have recognized that they thrive and offer a higher-quality experience to their students, faculty and staff when they’re in vibrant, mixed-used environments. So it’s great to see Kettering University embracing that and being prepared to work with a wider community.”

Community impact

All phases of the master plan include pedestrian corridors that flow toward the downtown area. The master plan shows safe, walkable pathways move throughout the campus, across Chevrolet Avenue, down University Avenue, past Atwood Stadium, connecting Kettering University to downtown and resources such as University of Michigan. It builds off what Kettering has already invested in the community. Since Kettering McMahan arrived on campus in 2011, the university has purchased more than 100 properties, many of them abandoned and blighted.

Many properties have been razed and turned into green space.

Previously, Kettering acquired a property on the southeast corner of University Avenue and Grand Traverse Street and razed the abandoned building, turning the property into green space. Last year, Carriage Town Ministries transformed a vacant lot on the northeast corner of University and Grand Traverse into a park. When McMahan took over, he instantly began thinking about how the private university could impact the Flint community.

Before coming to Kettering, McMahan had started a technology company that grew global, served as senior science and technology adviser to North Carolina’s governor and was a top strategist for a private venture capital organization funded by the CIA. In North Carolina, McMahan had to understand how universities can impact a community, especially when it came to technology and engineering. And that fit in perfectly with what could be done here in Flint.

Fixing up and maintaining the historic Atwood Stadium is part of the overall community vision of the university as well, McMahan said. “We are very intimately tied to the community. Our history is a shared history. Our legacy is a shared legacy,” McMahan said. “This is a city that has reinvented itself several times over the course of history. … We are delighted to be a part of it.”

University of Michigan-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego said she believes the new Kettering master plan will be beneficial to the revitalization of the community. “I think anything we can do that makes that bridge more areas downtown, that encourages people downtown is wonderful,” Borrego said. “It’s exciting. We’re still all new enough that we’re getting our hands around where our organizations can partner.

“We all share the commitment. We share the commitment to downtown, but larger than that we share the commitment to Flint.” UM-Flint is also taking a fresh look at its strategic planning to see how it can engage more in the community and along University Avenue corridor. It’s not just about revitalization and beautification, but also about providing space for the community to learn in a higher education environment.

At Kettering, when space in the current Academic Building opens up as some programs move into the Learning Commons, that space will be converted into community and pre-college spaces. The space will give pre-college students and under-served students access to a leading STEM institution and labs at young ages by adding partnership opportunities with schools and organizations. That has already begun with the creation of the FIRST Robotics Community Center, but McMahan said it will expand past that.

Reaching out to students at an early age, such as sixth or seventh grade or sooner, can make a major impact in school and career choices, he said. There will also be performance space and an auditorium to offer more services to the community. “It’s important because as a higher education institution, I believe very strongly that we have an obligation to engage,” McMahan said. “And we’re all members of this community. Faculty, staff are members of this community. … What Kettering does matters. What the other higher education institutions do, matters.

“No one entity on its own can fix everything. But working together, we can fix everything.” It’s not just about seeing Kettering grow. It’s about doing their part to help see Flint comeback and be successful. Walling said Kettering’s vision will continue to bring growth in the community.

“The new Kettering University vision and master plan will greatly benefit the wider community through increased economic development, greater housing options and better-maintained open space through the entire University Avenue corridor,” Walling said. “I was extremely impressed by the creativity of the plan and how it uses the university’s position on University Avenue and along the Flint River. The plan redefines what the University Avenue and Flint River corridor can be in the 21st century.”

Kettering and UM-Flint are also involved in a $1 million grant that will help fight crime along University Avenue corridor. Other projects are taking place to match Kettering’s effort in buying up blighted projects. Most recently, the spray-painted, crumbling building formerly known as the Burroughs mill was purchased, along with four adjacent properties just south of the Flint River along Grand Traverse Street. In the end, the universities have a responsibility to the community, McMahan said. The Kettering master plan reflects the potential of the university and the community.

“I came to understand very strongly and deeply the power of the universities to help reshape the communities. It’s a win-win for both the community and the university. And it’s a team effort with all four higher education institutions,” McMahan said. “It’s an investment and recognition of the potential of the institution. … The wonderful thing about this community is so many people are investing.”