Flint River Watershed Coalition and Kayak Flint get a new home in the heart of the city

A woman stands in an area filled with patchy grass in front of a river.
Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition, stands near the site of the nonprofit organization’s new headquarters. Photo: Cristina Wright

Flint, Michigan — The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation granted $350,000 to support a Flint River revitalization project along Kearsley Street in Flint.

The grant will provide funding to the Foundation for the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, a supporting organization of the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, for the redevelopment of the former 1st Source Servall Appliance Parts building at 630 W. Kearsley St. The building and adjacent properties will be redeveloped into the new headquarters for the nonprofit Flint River Watershed Coalition and its Kayak Flint rental program, which began in 2018.

“This is something fun and exciting for the city. For the first time, the Flint River Watershed Coalition will have our own storefront and can have a bigger presence. In my wildest dreams when I started at the FRWC, I would have never anticipated any of this happening. The stars seem to be aligning,” said Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the organization. “The momentum is there, and we have really seen people embrace the river in a much larger way than we have seen in the past. We want to keep that going and be a resource for people to access the river if they don’t have the ability to do that on their own.”

The property is bordered by the Flint River, Swartz Creek and Kearsley Street. When the revitalization project is complete, residents will have access to a kayak launch, fishing spots and lookout points. When the building is renovated, community members will be able to stop in and get maps and information about the Flint River Watershed. In the future, Fedewa also hopes to sell merchandise and use the proceeds to help support FRWC operations.

Genesee County Parks & Recreation already has begun work to improve access to the Swartz Creek. FRWC will begin work to improve access to the Flint River after the organization raises an additional $190,000 to fully fund the project.

“The Flint River Watershed Coalition is doing great things to bring people to an amazing natural resource right in the heart of Flint,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation. “I hope many more residents will be able to enjoy the river and all the opportunities it provides for recreation, education, and physical and mental health.”

Bordered by the Flint River (left), Swartz Creek and Kearsley Street, the property will provide convenient and safe water access for the Kayak Flint rental program. The Servall building, which will be renovated to become FRWC’s new space, is centered in the background.
Photo: Cristina Wright

The Flint River has an unwarranted bad reputation, Fedewa said, and this project could help residents realize how wonderful it is. While enjoying a peaceful trip down the river, community members can see a lot of wildlife, including minks, beavers, eagles, many types of fish and turtles.

“It’s a unique stretch of the river, and you will fall in love with it,” Fedewa said. “This is a great opportunity for us to show off the river as an environmental, economic and recreational asset to the community. A big part of what we do is encourage people to use the river, love the river and help us protect the river.”

Last year, FRWC and Kayak Flint put more than 1,000 people on the Flint River. Kayak Flint will open for the season on Memorial Day weekend. If renovations on the new property aren’t complete by then, residents will be able to launch into the Flint River from Tenacity Brewing Company at 119 N. Grand Traverse St.

Kayak Flint, FRWC’s kayak rental program, gives residents low-cost options to enjoy getting out on the Flint River. The community can experience a unique stretch of the river, paddling through both industrial and natural areas.
Photo: Sarah Schuch

“We have amazing partners with URC, Genesee County Parks & Recreation, and the Mott Foundation. To see this happening is a dream come true. It’s such a great add-on to what’s being done with the bigger Flint River restoration project,” Fedewa said.

“This project furthers URC’s charitable mission of improving and revitalizing downtown Flint,” said Tim Herman, URC president. “The Servall property is especially exciting because it connects so many community assets, including Chevy Commons, Atwood Stadium, the Flint River, local businesses and city walking trails. When the project is complete, residents will have a welcoming and inviting environment that will connect the downtown area with other neighborhoods and community spaces.”

Learn more about the FRWC and Kayak Flint at flintriver.org and kayakflint.org.