Leadership Charlevoix Launches "Paddle UP"

Written by Twilla Johnson, featured in the Charlevoix Courier

Leadership Charlevoix County class members work on Paddle UP. (From left, back) Allyssa Brooks, Jeff VanHove, Jeanne Marriott, Tricia Drenth, Regina Inman, Megan DeHoog, Elise Freed, Heidi Hanson, Sheri Shepard; (from left, front) Barb Loper, Caitlin Cole, Alexa Wright, Lonnie Allen, Meghan Meyer and Jill Dipert. Photo credit: Charlevoix Courier

CHARLEVOIX — Leadership Charlevoix County hopes to make it easier for anyone to launch a kayak or paddle board onto the waters of Lake Charlevoix this summer with its Paddle UP (Universal Put-In) project.

Each year, LCC takes on a community project. This year, the 15 members of the 2019 class are fundraising and FUN-raising with the Disability Network Northern Michigan and the City of Charlevoix Recreation Department to bring a universal accessible kayak launch to Ferry Beach.

This launch site is expected to make getting onto the water much more accessible to kayakers and other water enthusiasts. The universal design is intended for use by all ages, abilities and skill levels without the need for adaptions or specialized design.

“My husband is in his 60s and has bad knees,” said Julie Meggison, a Charlevoix County resident. “I’ve actually dropped him in the water while assisting him in and out of the kayak. Then, when we were camping last summer near Sault Ste. Marie, there was an accessible paddler launch there. The ease of use for my husband, Tom, and myself was such a godsend. It was a great day on the water for us both.”

Paddle UP began as a broad idea about creating a more structured and accessible waterways path on Lake Charlevoix. This idea quickly turned into a desire to create an inclusive and accessible kayaking opportunity for everyone.

“When I got out of the launch and onto the water, the sense of freedom that you feel, that you’re not restricted by wheels and canes and everything else,” said Jeanne Esch, an avid outdoor enthusiast with a disability.

Various launch sites throughout the county were considered. The City of Charlevoix had already begun discussion of the Ferry Beach launch and so the LCC class and DNNM climbed aboard and created the Paddle Up initiative.

“The City of Charlevoix is excited to partner with the Leadership Charlevoix County class and Disability Network Northern Michigan on this project,” said Kent Knorr, City of Charlevoix recreation director. “The desire for accessible kayak launches was identified in our most recent master planning process as a highly desirable action item. I believe that an accessible launch will benefit paddle sport users of all abilities. Paddlers want to launch and land smoothly and safely without capsizing or damaging their watercraft. It’s exciting to see the community supporting this project.”

Formal and grassroots fundraising efforts have begun and soon LCC will announce its fundraising event for the community to attend, learn more and help bring this amazing amenity to the shore of Lake Charlevoix.

To donate, visit www.disabilitynetwork.org and click on the Support Our Work tab to be taken to the donation page where you can select “apply my donation to Paddle UP Leadership Charlevoix County universal kayak launch.”

For more information, visit www.leadershipcharlevoixcounty.com.