February 16, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Port Huron getting downtown kayak, canoe launch

In a Sunday, Sept 8, 2012 photo, participants paddle up the Black River, during the Paddle and Pour event in Port Huron, Mich. Port Huron will be installing a new kayak launch east of the Seventh Street Bridge on the Black River. (Andrew Jowett / AP)

Port Huron— A new kayak and canoe launch ramp for use by paddlers on the Black River is planned for Port Huron as officials work to boost the city’s downtown.

The Community Foundation of St. Clair County decided last week to give the city a $30,000 grant to build the ramp just east of the Seventh Street Bridge, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported. It’s expected to be ready by early May.

“I think kayaking is becoming more and more popular, and there’s really nowhere to get out in Port Huron,” said Port Huron Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Winzer. “Just having it right there, accessible by the downtown businesses, is just amazing.”

St. Clair County Parks and Recreation plans to supply about $30,000 to buy and install a floating dock for canoes and kayaks at the bottom of the ramp. The ramp is expected to meet the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city has approached a business to offer canoes and kayaks for rent. The ramp and dock will be the third ADA-accessible ones on the Black River.

Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the area’s Island Loop as a national water trail. The Island Loop is a 10-mile kayak and canoe route from the Black River to the Black River canal to Lake Huron to the St. Clair River, and then back into the Black River.

The new launch ramp and the designation for the Island Loop go hand in hand, said Lori J. Eschenburg, a planner with St. Clair County Metropolitan Planning Commission. Eschenburg approached City Manager Bruce Brown last fall about downtown canoe and kayak access.

Improved access to the water also fits in with the Trail Towns program, which explores how to get people who use bicycle paths or waterways to go to downtown shops and restaurants, Eschenburg said. An aim is to boost the number of people using those businesses.

“With this launch close to downtown, people can access the city and all it has to offer,” Eschenburg said.