TRAVERSE CITY — Some groups have suggested more paddlers than ever are floating the Boardman River, especially since the removal of three dams.
That means more tubes, canoes and kayaks drifting downstream, particularly during summer months. Reportedly friction has since grown between paddlers and other river users such as anglers, hikers, birders and more.
A local nonprofit group wants to have a community conversation about all that.
“Any time you have multiple user groups using the same area, you are going to have some friction,” said Lt. Joe Molnar, the top local conservation officer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Molnar will be among the panelists at a coming community forum about the future of paddling sports on the Boardman River. The event is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Traverse Area District Library on Woodmere Avenue.
Nonprofit group Brook Trout Coalition, Traverse City Tourism and Interlochen Public Radio partnered to sponsor the forum, which will be moderated by Peter Payette, IPR’s executive director.
Tom White with the coalition said anyone interested in the topic should bring both their questions and their answers to the forum, which will be live-streamed online through Traverse Area Community Media.
White said some of the reported conflict on the river involves paddlers and anglers. Some paddling groups can be noisy and scare fish away as they float over scouted fishing holes, he said.
“And once (the fish) are gone it can take a while for them to re-establish a pattern,” White said.
He said while not every kayaker or canoeist is problematic, large numbers of paddlers become “untenable” for anglers. That’s especially true for fly-fishers who strive to quietly lure fish to the surface with an artificial fly carefully cast to a specific spot, he said.
And it’s not just upriver anglers that have friction with paddlers. Riparian property and homeowners along the river also have concerns.
Fred Rohe lives on Midtown Drive and said the growing number of paddlers on the Boardman River has grown to be a nuisance.
Three-quarters of the paddlers on the Boardman River are innocuous, he said, but the rest seem to be “having a party in our front yard.”
“People obviously are out there drinking beer and having a good time.”
Rohe said he would like to see greater limits placed on the commercial use of the Boardman River.
He isn’t able to attend the community forum because he is in Florida for the duration of winter, but said he will make his other Traverse City neighbors aware of the event.
Troy Daily is the owner of Paddle for Pints and Kayak and also Bike and Brew, which offers organized tours of Traverse City via the Boardman River. He said contrary to some opinions, his companies don’t condone rowdy and obnoxious behaviors.
“There’s a perceived issue that I send a bunch of drunk people down the river which is completely inaccurate,” Daily said.
Participants in Daily’s river tours don’t consume more than three beers during the trips through downtown Traverse City, and he said police have never been called or arrested any of his customers for bad behavior.
“We have this really cool asset that goes right through downtown Traverse City and should be used,” Daily said.
In fact, he said his goal is to create more access to paddlers and further raise awareness of the local natural beauty.
Tracie Lord, president of the Traverse Area Paddle Club, said she’s not convinced there really has been a spike in the number of paddlers on the Boardman River, but instead the public is now simply paying closer attention.
“I don’t think there’s been a usage count study done,” Lord said.
Regardless, she said talking about how the various user groups can all benefit from the waterway is a worthwhile effort.
“There are so many changes going on on the Boardman (River) and it’s a good idea to sit down and map out the direction the community wants to go with it,” Lord said.
Lord said she intends to attend the forum and participate in the community conversation.
Questions about the event can be emailed to email@example.com.