City to improve river shoreline

ALPENA – A facelift could be in the works for the Thunder Bay River as early as next summer, according to City Engineer Rich Sullenger.

Sullenger has been working on the riverscape plan, which looks at shoreline improvements and easier access to the Thunder Bay River from the Ninth Avenue Dam to the river mouth that are not detrimental to the shoreline. Sullenger said the plan would allow for various access points to the river through different techniques, which would improve the look and function of the Thunder Bay River in the community.

“We can’t proceed with the actual renovation until the funding is approved,” Sullenger said. “The plan is not set to control property owners or development rights.”

Sullenger said shoreline property owners would receive an advisory document on what improvements could be done using different techniques tailored to the specific property. The suggestions would describe ways to soften the shoreline approach and help slow erosion.

The riverscape plan also would allow for a dock with a canoe and kayak launch to be built behind the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. There would be auditorium style seating walls, a ramped vehicle and trailer access, and a pavilion area located next to the Maritime Heritage Trail.

The launch for kayaks and canoes would be similar to the launch at Duck Park, with rollers. There also would be an area for the Alpena Youth Sailing Club to dock and anchor on shore, providing them with access to the river for its classes and a safe harbor in inclement weather.

“The NOAA is a key element in the water quality education, which is difficult for the sanctuary without direct access to the river,” Sullenger said. “The sanctuary would be able to take students to the water and do educational activities.”

Sanctuary Deputy Superintendent Russ Green has high hopes for the river shoreline by the sanctuary.

“We’re hoping to do river and watershed education with the proposed facility,” Green said. “This would re-energize the river and better connect people to the water. The community could see the sailing club at work, and people are using this side of the river more and more with the Maritime Heritage trail.

“Alpena Marc LLC will allow us to develop the access if we get the grant. This would be great for community involvement.”

The grant request to improve the shoreline is for $100,000 from Coastal Zone Management, and would be matched by donated services, and volunteer time to total around $210,000.

“The community is a big part of the story with this grant,” Green said. “People donate excavating expertise, staff time, and different materials; we have to put up an equal amount of funds which we ask for in the grant.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.