Visions for Traverse City’s Boardman River

Channeling the restoration of Traverse City’s beautiful Boardman River for 40 years.

In celebration of our 40th anniversary in 2020, we’re digging into our archives and sharing classic stories told over the years in Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. We hope you enjoy this look back as much as we do!

Traverse has had its eye on the Boardman River from our inaugural issue in June 1981, when we published our cover story, “A Dream Realized: Boardman Redevelopment.” Our editorial team back then—Deb Fellows and Jeff Smith—agreed with a number of city leaders that it was time to treat this river, that hairpins through Traverse City and empties into Grand Traverse Bay, as the jewel it is. While people no longer emptied raw sewage directly into it as they had in the 19th century, its banks were eroding, outmoded hydroelectric dams impeded the river’s free-flowing water and there were virtually no public access points for people to experience the river.

Read our June 1981 issue! We’re sharing it free online, along with our June 2020 40th anniversary magazine. Read them both here. 

A drawing published in the June 1981 issue of Traverse Magazine shared the idea for an amphitheater along the river behind the Chamber of Commerce. 

The plan that we wrote about 40 years ago hasn’t all come to fruition (no water taxis!), but still, the city and community have made great strides in restoring TC’s river. City Planner Russ Soyring, who has held the position since 1986, helps us highlight some of them:

  • A wooden boardwalk now runs between Cass Street and the mouth of the river.
  • The contaminated former Iron Works site was cleaned up and redeveloped into the successful mixed-use River’s Edge and Midtown neighborhoods. The development also includes a public walk along the entire parcel on the Boardman River.
  • A new stormwater filtration system was implemented, cleaning the water before it goes into the Boardman River. The project also includes fishing platforms, stone riverbank terraces to control erosion and a riparian buffer.
  • Volunteers, led by Norm Fred, have recruited and organized teams to clean trash from the river for many years.
  • Three dams were removed along the Boardman River. These changes have resulted in a colder running river that will support cold water fisheries.

What might the future bring? “We have a detailed plan for a beautiful public pier at the mouth of the Boardman River. This project was put on hold so other critical infrastructure needs within the city can be addressed,” Soyring tells us.

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