Shelby Township receives grants for kayak launch and fishing dock

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published June 5, 2023


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation recently announced the awarding of $800,000 in grants to 36 organizations through the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds, and those grants included $50,000 for Shelby Township to build a universally accessible kayak launch and fishing dock, which is one piece, at River Bends Park.

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Schultz, Shelby Township naturalist and Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center coordinator, said that as an avid paddler, this project is dear to her heart.

“I believe the joy of floating down the Clinton River, watching muskrats and turtles while listening to singing birds, should be a barrier-free experience. It’s an honor to help make that happen for our community,” she said.

The Clinton River Water Trail runs through River Bends Park and is enjoyed by residents and tourists. The current River Bends Park fishing site and kayak or canoe launch area is a dirt path with a steep decline. People who have mobility challenges or disabilities are not able to use the launch, which creates a barrier in this section of the water trail.

There are a few neighboring communities that have universally accessible boat launches, but they are more than 6 miles of river away.

By constructing a universally accessible boat launch in River Bends Park, the Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department will be creating a stronger network of accessible launches so that more people can utilize more of the Clinton River Water Trail.

Thanks to the grant awarded by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and a grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation for $20,000, the Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department will be able to install an “EZ Launch” kayak launch at the River Bends Park fishing site. The EZ Launch exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The township also will be upgrading the parking lot and pathways to ensure universal access.

Township officials are looking for help in cleaning up the Clinton River in preparation for the project. In partnership with the Clinton River Watershed Council, the township is seeking volunteers to help remove trash around the waterway. Those interested can meet at the River Bends Park fishing site located at 49354 Ryan Road at 2 p.m. June 10. Organizers prefer preregistration to ensure they have enough supplies. Sign up at There will be ice cream to celebrate the cleanup.

Joe Youngblood, director of the Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department, said this will be a very popular and positive addition to Shelby Township.

“The new Shelby Township accessible kayak launch will be a great addition to our park system.  We are also in process of clearing out debris to make the river as safe as possible,” he said.

The township hopes to have the launch and dock compleded by this fall.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds focus on regional caregiving, design and access, youth sports, and the Grosse Pointe community. Wilson, who died at age 95 in 2014, was a Grosse Pointe Shores resident and the founder and owner of the Buffalo Bills.