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River Walk Grand Opening Highlights

Posted on June 9, 2014

Saturday was a beautiful day to celebrate the Grand Opening of the River Walk. Many donors, partners, volunteers and community members came together to celebrate and enjoy the restored shoreline and to be reminded of how so much success was achieved in such a short amount of time.

“In 2009 Dr. James Acheson had his team at Acheson Ventures approach the Community Foundation with a daunting proposal. He asked us (the Community Foundation) to consider taking over the care and restoration of almost one mile of shoreline.  His team had come to the point when they knew that money alone would not rally the public and private sectors to finish this restoration.  He offered to donate the entire shoreline to the Community Foundation.

When the Board of the Community Foundation finally agreed to accept the gift, we had no real money to start work.  We hadn’t yet asked any donors for help.  We hadn’t approached any state or federal agency for support.  We literally didn’t have a single dollar set aside for this project.  But we had something more important than money, something more valuable. We had hope and desire, and passion. We believed in a vision.  We believed in the power of the human spirit and we found new friends.

Our first federal partner was the US Fish & Wildlife Service who gave us $250,000 for our Pilot Phase.  Then we went to NOAA and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  And we told NOAA we needed another $2.1 million to finish the restoration component.  NOAA said “NO” (our first rejection)- We can’t give you $2.1 million they said, but we can give you $2 million.”

Then MDOT offered us a challenge grant to build our trail and our first corporate partner, Michigan Mutual, came on board, then Dr. Nasr, and the Kusch’s, and the Samman’s, then more donors….big and small…..joined in until we had enough to build the trail. 

Then our St. Clair County Parks & Recreation Commission said they would join us and take the lead in building a brand-new County Wetlands Park on the southern end of our property.  Then DTE said we’ll help you remove those old utility poles.

And at some point down the road we knew we wanted to restore and re-open this beautiful old railroad ferry dock, but we didn’t have any money.  Then Catherine Houghton, Mino Duffy Kramer,  Robert & Linda Smith and Clinton & Barbara Stimpson and other donors came to us and said “let’s not wait….let’s do it now.”

We knew we wanted permanent pieces of public art along our shoreline, and our donors and our Blue Water Arts Committee said “let’s not wait” and then something magical happened, the mighty St. Clair River smiled and this majestic stretch of shoreline re-awakened……” -Randy Maiers

Download Randy’s Entire Speech from the Grand Opening

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