The number of MI Paddle Stewards jumped significantly when the course offered by Michigan Sea Grant and funded by state dollars became available online for free in 2020. The program's goal is to train kayakers, paddleboarders and canoeists to:
Extensive media coverage of the program resulted in 233 registrations between July and December. That's an increase of over 70 people since the last time the class was offered in person, says Michigan State University Extension educator Mary Bohling.
"Paddlers are very active in Michigan and often visit waterbodies and areas that other boaters cannot access, notes Kevin Walters, the program's technical contact for its grantee — the Michigan Sea Grant. "We believe messaging and education to paddlers is an important component of a more comprehensive aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention program in Michigan.
"The message to paddlers (and boaters and anglers too!) is quite simple: Clean, drain, dry. Clean your boats and gear after each use to remove all mud, debris, and plant material. Drain all water from your paddle craft and boats. Dry boats and gear for up to five days, when possible between uses. Each of these steps helps prevent the introduction and spread of AIS between and among Michigan's many waterbodies."
The course is now available again online for free. Register via the Michigan State University Extension program.
The MI Paddle Stewards program is funded through the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (MISGP), which is collaboratively implemented by EGLE, DNR, and MDARD to address strategic issues of prevention, detection, eradication, and control for both terrestrial and aquatic invasive species in Michigan.
Photo caption: Four kayakers on the water part of MI Paddle Stewards program. Photo Credit: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant