The Cass River Greenway Committee has been working with many communities along the river for over a dozen years, looking to improve water quality and recreational opportunities.
In the greater Frankenmuth area, between the Village of Tuscola and past Bridgeport, much work as been done to develop kayak and canoeing launches, including in Frankenmuth with the fish passage and fish releases through many organizations.
However, the end of the trail near Bridgeport has been the focus, with a pair of major log jams removed over the past three years. The first one was near M-13 and was removed in 2019. Recently, a second log jam was removed, found downstream of Bridgeport and its waste water treatment plant.
The second jam, which was located less than a mile from the first one, was larger and more compact to tackle. Both were in remote areas and difficult to access.
The most recent jam removal cost approximately $25,000, with riparian property owner Mark Schluckbier allowing Zervan Brothers Excavating of Burt, owned by Craig Wolverton, access to the jam.
Cass River Greenway Committee Chairman Robert Zeilinger wishes to thank the following for making contributions to the work, which was done in late March. They are, the Frankenmuth Credit Union Foundation For Our Communities, the Frankenmuth Community Foundation, Frank N. Andersen Foundation, William McNally Family Foundation, Star of the West Milling Company, Jolt Credit Union, Arno & Caroline Mossner Memorial Foundation, Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), Knights of Bavaria, Frankenmuth Insurance Charitable Foundation and the Cass River Greenway.
The removal completes a 38-mile-long water trail; the Cass River overall measures approximately 73 miles, including the north and south branches.
More specifically, the second log jam was located between Studor and Lee roads. Once identified, the fundraising began last year, with the goal to perform the work in winter, the same time frame the first jam was removed, when the ground is frozen and it is easier for the heavy equipment to enter, remove the debris and get out. However, permitting was slowed and then the road weight restrictions stopped the project.
Work finally began on Wednesday, April 23, and wrapped up Tuesday, April 27. The logs were taken from the water, piled on site and burned. During the first log jam, the wood was chipped.
Zervan workers had a strategy, taking the logs from one side of the river bank and building a bridge over the water, in from of the 80,000-pound excavator, which allowed it to “walk” to the other side of the river.
Zeilinger, Cass River Greenway Vice President Joe Toth and Bridgeport Parks and Recreation Director Bill Wheeler said two excavators worked in tandem, taking out the logs, and slowly removing the log bridge.
“The dryness of the winter and spring helped us . . . we had no flooding,” Zeilinger said. “The water was no deeper than 6-8 feet for the most part.”
Zeilinger also listed the three benefits of not only having this log jam removed, but the other one as well.
“The big benefits are one, recreation, for paddling and fishing boats. Persons can now go between Bridgeport and M-13, and they could not do that for at least the past 4-5 years. Secondly, fish will be more likely to migrate upstream where before the jam was so solid, the fish could not get through, Finally, during a flooding event, the two jams worked like another dam,” Zeilinger stated.
Going forward, Wheeler and Frankenmuth Parks and Recreation Director Daren Kaschinske will head up a survey of the river. The Greenway Committee is hoping some area outdoor enthusiasts will volunteer to scout the river and report potential log jams.
In other CRGC news, Saturday and Sunday, June 12-13, is Free Fishing Weekend in Michigan as all fishing license fees will be waived for two days. Residents and out-of-state visitors may enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes’ waters for all species of fish, however, all fishing regulations still apply.
A week later, Saturday, June 19, the 10th annual Cass River Paddle and Swim will take place. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are welcome. Persons should meet at the Tuscola Park Launch and depart at 9:30am or meet at the Downtown Vassar Launch and depart at 7am. Swimmers will assemble in the 9000 block of Ormes Road at 9am.
Pontoons will assist and escort swimmers downstream to Heritage Park. Wet suits are recommended for swimmers.
For more information about the Cass River, please visit www.cassriver.org.