A community-led group is working to improve access to the Cedar River and make it easily explored by all.

The Cedar River runs through the heart of Leelanau County, connecting Cedar and Leland by way of Lake Leelanau. The slow-moving river is a local destination for kayaking, birdwatching, fishing and more.

A grassroots initiative has been in the works for three years, uniting the Solon Township Board, Solon Township Parks and the Cedar Chamber of Commerce, along with civil engineers, wetland ecologists, the DNR and more, to bring the Cedar River Marina Project to life. “The Cedar River is a hidden jewel in Michigan,” says Ray Pleva, a longtime Cedar resident who has played a major role in the initiative.

The plan includes a new floating dock system, ADA-accessible kayak and canoe launch and a universal lift for boaters. There will also be new fish habitat, updated picnic areas, a pavilion, an enclosed bathroom area with a handicap stall and changing table, three rain gardens, a 911 phone and a boat wash station. Year-round access to water for fire departments and an improved ramp for use by the sheriff’s department in marine emergencies are also in the works.

The township and its partners are actively raising funds for the $1.3 million project. Public, tax-deductible donations are being accepted through GoFundMe, or you can contact the group directly via this form.

Update July 10, 2020 // Editor’s Note: Tom Nelson, Executive Director of the Leelanau Conservancy, has shared a concern about the project:

“We have some serious concerns but are not opposed to some improvements there. The Conservancy has preserved over 500 acres of this ecological wonder—our Cedar River Preserve is immediately downstream from this prospective project. We think improvements that would enhance traditional nonmotorized uses would be fine. But the project incorporates slips for powerboats and pontoons which pose a real danger to the ecology of this shallow and narrow riparian corridor. Powerboats will also pose a hazard to kayakers and canoeists, as the river has many tight turns and shallow reaches with little space for maneuvering.

“Again, we are not opposing enhancements for nonmotorized users, but have real concerns about the ecological consequences of enticing powerboats to traverse this fragile riverine corridor. It is one of the few rivers in our region that are navigable by kayak or canoe with very little conflict to-date with power boaters.”

*Powerboats are currently permitted on the river, but due to the absence of amenities/facilities at the traditional terminus at Co. Road 651, powerboats infrequently travel upriver from Lake Leelanau.

Check out this video to learn more about the project. 

Photo(s) by Mary Taylor