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Michigan kayak business brings residents back to Flint River

By ZAHRA AHMADJuly 21, 2019

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A new kayaking business is trying to change the narrative surrounding the Flint River.

Kayak Flint, a program raising funds for the Flint River Watershed Coalition, is getting residents back on the river.

A pilot of the program kicked off September 2018. The business officially opened in May and people are loving it, said Sarah Scheitler a manager of the program.

“We’ve had dozens of people every day on the weekends,” Scheitler told MLive.com. “One of our main goals with this project is to get residents reconnected with the Flint River because there have been so many psychological and physical barriers to enjoying the river in the past.”

Residents can rent one of 15 single kayaks or two people can rent one of three tandem kayaks for three hours between noon and 6:30 p.m. on Friday or between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Renting kayaks for Flint residents cost $10 and for everyone outside of Flint it’s $20. It’s $35 to rent a tandem kayak.

The Flint River Watershed Coalition has been around for nearly 21 years and focuses on rehabilitating and raising awareness about the Flint River. Kayak Flint has been in the works at the coalition for years, Jaime Welch a program manager said.

“I’m most excited about getting people on the river so they can see it for themselves,” Welch said.

Paddlers can possibly see things like bald eagles and potentially foxes on their floats, according to Welch.

The route starts at Grand Traverse Street behind Tenacity Brewing and ends near Flushing Road. Kayak Flint offers a guided paddle session and iKayak, an inclusive kayaking program.

“We partnered with the disability network to host a workshop where we teach people disabilities or senior citizens how to get in a kayak and safely kayak,” Welch said.

The route takes about an hour and half to complete, according to Welch.

Kayak Flint employees seven people, three of which are Summer Youth Initiative Students through the watershed coalition’s partnership with TeenQuest. Marcell Simmons, 18, is going into his senior year of high school at Gateway to College and has been working with Kayak Flint this summer.

“Working out here has been superb,” Simmons said. “Getting people out here to look at the water let alone to get in it was a barrier. I had to talk the people I know into it. But they’re now more accepting to it.”

The grant will support development and implementation of Flint Green Bridges and the Flint River’s water quality program

Simmons wants to study communications in college. Working at Kayak Flint is giving him real life experience by enabling him to be in the community and talking with residents, Simmons said.

“A lot of jobs don’t offer you that opportunity,” he added.

The Flint River Watershed Coalition will be hosting its 5th Annual Floating Party on the river at 11 a.m. on Aug. 3. Tickets for the floating party are $10 and free for children 12 years old and younger.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com

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