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Rouge River cleanup to happen in May

Volunteers build birdhouses in Canton as part of the 2013 Rouge Rescue clean-up event. This year's event will take place on May 17 and surrounding days.
Cyndi Ross
Friends of the Rouge

An annual project to clean up the Rouge River is happening early this year because a federal grant that helps fund the event is coming to an end.

Aimee LaLonde-Norman, executive director of the conservation group Friends of the Rouge, says the Rouge Rescue will center around May 17 rather than the first weekend in June, as it has been for 27 years. The change comes because the grant they use for the event ends this May.

The grant, which is about $125,000 per year, makes up a quarter of the non-profit’s operating budget. Friends of the Rouge has held the grant for more than 20 years, she says.

“It’s been a critical source of funding for us,” says LaLonde-Norman. “It will be greatly missed.”

The Rouge Rescue has morphed over the years from an event that cleaned up illegal dumping on the banks of the river into a program that deals with invasive species and clearing up log jams. It’s a family-friendly day on the river, with birdhouse building, bat house construction, weed pulling and other activities intended to bring people closer to nature, says LaLonde-Norman. Most events will be on May 17, but there will be some on May 10 and in the first week of June.

The Rouge River is the most populated river basin in Michigan, with four forks winding through 80 communities in Wayne and Oakland Counties. The main stem of the river is mostly industrial.

LaLonde-Norman says they will investigate other ways to make up the lost grant, including direct fundraising and seeking support from groups that sponsor sustainable infrastructure projects.

“The Rouge is a beautiful river. We have our challenges, of course, but we really have some beautiful places and some unique places,” she says.

Friends of the Rouge sponsors several events on the river, both as part of the Rouge Rescue and during other times of the year. To sign up for events, visit therouge.org, and click on Programs.

Megha Satyanarayana, Michigan Radio Newsroom