Forty-five years of fishing for brook trout in the Boardman River has given me an acute interest in the management of the river, especially its fishery. The removal of three of the four dams on the river, along with plans to replace the Union Street Dam with a FishPass structure, increased my interest in fish management.
Since the late 1800s, the Boardman’s aging dams have impeded the movement of fish from Grand Traverse Bay into the upper reaches of the river. Their removal, combined with FishPass management decisions the Michigan DNR will make, will profoundly affect the fishery in Boardman River for years to come.
When I learned the Downtown Development Authority was sponsoring a Lower Boardman River Leadership Team to help the community determine how the 1.7 miles of river and its environs should be managed from Boardman Lake to Grand Traverse Bay — a stretch that includes FishPass — I decided that attending their meetings would be a good way of keeping tabs on my beloved river and perhaps being able to have some input into what it is to become.
Since January, I have attended all of the Leadership Team meetings. It’s been an eye-opening experience. I’ve learned that the public looks at the river through differing lenses. Some people focus on its fauna and flora, others on the purity of its water. One segment is preoccupied with its accessibility and user-friendliness for paddling, while others focus on its history and sacredness to Native Americans. And then there are groups that want to restrict all development along the river’s banks.
My primary interest in the Boardman has always been upstream, above Beitner Road to the upper reaches of the north and south branches. What is the river’s future, and who will decide it? As Don Henley lamented in “The Last Resort,” the Eagles’ ode to the environment, “Who will provide the grand design, what is yours and what is mine?”
A chance conversation with Steve Largent, the Boardman River Program Coordinator for the Grand Traverse Conservation District, crystallized my thoughts about how to involve the public in decisions about the future of the Boardman. I learned that multiple organizations and entities have been working on plans for the river, some for many years. Unfortunately, the public is largely unaware of these initiatives or what their impact might be.
To answer those questions, the boards of directors of the Brook Trout Coalition and the Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited are sponsoring a free community forum titled “Emerging Visions for the Boardman River” on August 28 at 6 p.m. at the Traverse Area District Library. Panelists will be Christine Crissman, Executive Director of the Watershed Center; Mike Vickery, Chairman of For Love of Water; Brett Fessell, River Restoration Ecologist for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; and Largent. The forum will be moderated by Peter Payette, Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio.
If you’re concerned about the future of the river, I encourage you to attend.