As a Flint kid in the seventies and eighties, you were taught to avoid the Flint River. And I have to admit I was a little nervous about kayaking on it. I was wondering if there was a way to do it without ever coming into contact with the actual river water. Was there any possibility the river might catch on fire? I knew this was totally irrational, but I checked with a few friends and confirmed that the river has a pretty bad reputation among Flint Expatriates who haven't been back in a while.
After a few hours on the River near Flushing yesterday, I now realize how beautiful the Flint River can be. I kayaked with Greg and Pam Palinsky, who spend a lot of time on the water, along with Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition. There have been intense cleanup efforts over the years, and there's abundant wildlife along the banks. (Can you spot the deer in the photo below?) Bald Eagles have been spotted overhead. The fish population is varied and healthy. Last weekend, people were even canoeing in the river near downtown as part of an untraditional triathlon.
At the risk of getting too esoteric, it was a good lesson for me about how you hang on to stereotypes. And how fast things can change.