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WaterTowns: Placemaking in Macomb County

Posted on May 16, 2016

By: Anne Vaara, Executive Director Clinton River Watershed Council

WaterTowns is the Clinton River Watershed Council’s community-based placemaking initiative designed to help towns and cities in the watershed leverage the assets of the Clinton River, its tributaries and Lake St. Clair for water-oriented community development. The key initiatives of the program are developing and promoting the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair paddling trails, community planning and civic engagement. Through the WaterTowns program, CRWC works to engage communities through art, history, ecology, recreation and education by hosting paddling events, stewardship opportunities and educational forums.

In 2013, a WaterTrail master plan was developed for the Lake St. Clair and Clinton River water trails. CRWC continues to help communities develop better access points by including universal design principles, adding trail amenities and installing signage. CRWC is currently working on planning and design for universally accessible launches in 9 communities of which 7 are in located Macomb County. These projects have been made possible through multiple grants from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Office of the Great Lakes Coastal Zone Management Program.

The watershed council has also partnered with the Shelby Township Fire Department to organize a series of safety on the water forums.  We invited first responders, community representatives and other local stakeholders with interests on the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair Water Trails to attend and provide feedback to increase the safety of paddlers. The input provided was used to develop numbered emergency markers that will be installed along the water trail starting in Auburn Hills in Oakland County through Harrison Township.

WaterTowns communities are offered the opportunity to participate in a Green Infrastructure planning and design partnership with the Lawrence Technological University’s Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute (LTU). This partnership helps further the goals of the WaterTowns program to work with communities for climate change planning and preparedness while encouraging green initiatives, sustainable land use practices and sense of place. We encourage all of our communities within the watershed to think seriously about ways to protect water quality through reduction in stormwater runoff, limiting nutrient loading and carbon sequestration through green infrastructure.

Since 2014, we have studied the GI potential for six communities (The City of the Village of Clarkston, the City of Rochester, the City of Rochester Hills, The City of Utica, The City of Sterling Heights and Clinton Township). Each community was presented with an “al a carte menu” of GI choices with graphic renderings and costs associated with each choice.  The purpose for breaking down each design was so that the community could sort out which costs would be doable over a period of time and to budget appropriately for installation. Another important element to this approach was to ensure that the community could place funds for construction into their budget that could also be used for match dollars for potential grants when they become available. The watershed council is committed to finding grant money for member communities to help offset these costs associated with water quality management.

Above: Rendering showing changing Auburn Road in Utica from a one way to a two way traffic pattern and installing green infrastructure for storm water management.