Marshall-area residents show their pride through #MyKalamazoo contest

Kalamazoo River evokes ‘sense of peace’ for outdoor enthusiasts

A lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Tracy Bronson grew up on the river.

Michigan’s Grand River, for starters, where her aquatic love affair started with wading, swimming and fishing.

And, since 1992 when she moved cross-state to Marshall, the Kalamazoo River.

“I love canoeing and kayaking the Kalamazoo, but my favorite activity is just watching families enjoy it,” says Bronson, executive director of the Calhoun Conservation District. “Recreation, tourism, aesthetics, education—they all have a home on the Kalamazoo River. But most of all, the river gives me a sense of peace that I can’t find anywhere else.”

Many others in Marshall and Battle Creek share Bronson’s passion for the river. And in recent weeks, they put that pride on display as part of the Calhoun Conservation District’s #MyKalamazoo contest over the Labor Day weekend.

With live radio spots at Paddler’s Grove and Saylor’s Landing, and a ’Zoo Crew team handing out #MyKalamazoo swag, local enthusiasts with canoes, kayaks, tubes, fly rods and picnic baskets were encouraged to snap photos showing their pride and share them on social media channels, using the #myKalamazoo hashtag.

The contest, sponsored by Enbridge, featured prizes that included a kayak adventure pack, three adventure sports paddle packs, numerous fishing prize packs, and the grand prize of a $1,000 “kayak master” pack that included an Evoke Navigator 120 sit-on fishing kayak.

“It’s very encouraging,” says Bronson, “to see canoers, kayakers and fishermen enjoying the river in such large numbers.”

Following the July 2010 spill in Marshall, Enbridge promised from the very beginning that we would clean up and restore the Kalamazoo River, Talmadge Creek, and the surrounding area, and cover the costs.

We have followed through on our commitment to the state and the community—cleaning up, restoring and returning the river to the people of Michigan. We’ve also enhanced and built new parks and recreation facilities along the Kalamazoo for residents’ enjoyment.

We’ve now moved into a new phase with the State of Michigan for long-term monitoring and invasive species control along the Kalamazoo, under the direction of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The restoration of the Kalamazoo “is nothing short of amazing,” according to a video produced by the State. “Everyone knows the dark moment in this river’s history, but its future is looking brighter every year.”

The Calhoun Conservation District provides canoe and kayak rentals, looks after three parks (Saylor’s Landing, Angler’s Bend and Paddler’s Grove) along the Kalamazoo, and holds a summer day camp for kids—while also planning on staging #MyKalamazoo as an annual event.

“The oil spill, as devastating as it was, gave us an opportunity to teach kids the value of our natural resources,” says Bronson, “and how quickly those values can disappear.”

(TOP PHOTO: Outdoor enthusiasts show their pride with submitted photos as part of the Calhoun Conservation District's #MyKalamazoo contest.)