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Port Huron — A few picnic tables and charcoal grills greet visitors pulling off of Gratiot Avenue into Belle River Roadside Park. The ground slopes down to the bank of the Belle River, which winds through the woods.

It’s a popular stop for people to come through and relax, Columbus Township Supervisor Bruce Christy said.

“Mainly they use it for fishing,” Christy said. “A lot of people sit there and watch the water go by.”

Belle River Roadside Park is slated for a round of habitat rehabilitation and other work. The work will be performed with a $449,750 grant through the Aquatic Habitat Grants Program under the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The work will take place along about 2,000 feet of the Belle River. The grant requires a 10% match from applicants, said DNR program manager Chip Kosloski.

“Over the years it’s been getting in worse and worse disrepair,” Christy said.

The work is set to start this summer and the project could take five years to complete, Christy said. He said the park should remain open to residents during the work.

DNR Fisheries grant manager Joe Nohner said the survey of mussels in the river is underway and residents could start seeing heavy machinery at the site following the completion of the survey.

Despite the issues, Christy said the area is a popular spot for local residents, even as they register complaints about log jams and other issues. Much of the work will involve addressing erosion issues and restoring a more natural balance to the river’s structure, said Cleyo Harris, DNR Fisheries Division fisheries biologist.

The river should be a combination of runs, riffles and pools, Harris said. Runs are longer stretches of water with little turbulence. Riffles are more shallow than runs and move quickly over rocks, creating turbulence. Pools are deeper, slower sections of the river that sometimes occur at bends in the river. The work will seek to restore a balance between different habitats within the river itself, including clearing debris from the water and addressing erosion issues.

The Aquatic Habitats Grant Program provides about $1.25 million each year to protect and restore fish populations and habitat. The program is funded by fees from hunting and fishing licenses. The funding will be available next grant cycle through the newly formed Fisheries Habitat Grant, according to a DNR news release. A request for proposals is scheduled for the end of July.

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