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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Kent Castleman, director of Fort Wayne Trails, rear, and Mitch Barloga, director of Northwest Regional Planning Commission, check out the new boat launch area at the Mayhew Bridge public access site Friday morning.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette The Mayhew Bridge public access boat ramp opened Friday morning.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette The newly opened public access boat ramp at the Mayhew Bridge site.

Saturday, August 04, 2018 1:00 am

New access point along St. Joe River

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

When you're launching a boat launch, you don't necessarily need a boat.

At least the Allen County commissioners and other state and local officials didn't need one this morning in launching the newly finished Mayhew Bridge Boat Launch on the St. Joseph River.

Cutting a big red ribbon was enough as the cooperative project between the county and the Indiana Department of Environmental Resources just off Mayhew Road was opened to the public for the first time.

The site will see its official launch with boats on Wednesday, when the public can join Northeast Indiana Water Trails at 6 p.m. for a group paddle from the site to Fort Wayne's Shoaff Park.

That's about a 90-minute to two-hour paddle, according to Kyle Quandt of the Northeastern Indiana Regional Partnership, a trip organizer. She said the event is family friendly and free.

There's no charge to use the launch at any time, and it will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to William Seegers, a DNR official who oversees all of Indiana's 433 state-related boat launches.

“We need this one because of the location on the river. We have a program to have one every 10 miles on navigable streams and this fills a niche in the St. Joseph corridor between the Maumee Dam in Fort Wayne and the Cedarville Dam at Hurshtown Reservoir, Seegers said.

The launch is a gateway to about 13 miles of navigable river, said Republican County Commissioner Nelson Peters. “There aren't too many places where you can do that around here.”

He said the launch is a quality-of-life improvement for many county residents. “One of the jewels that represent Allen County quality of life is our rivers,” Peters said, noting there are now 10 spots in the county to access waterways by boat.

Peters and fellow Republican County Commissioners Linda Bloom and Therese Brown attended the ceremony as did Allen County Highway Department Director Bill Hartman.

Seegers said the cost of the concrete apron is $30,000 to $40,000. Construction was funded by income from hunting and fishing licenses and a small tax on motorboat fuel and fishing equipment.

The ramp was done in-house this year on land donated by the county, some of which was utility right-of-way, he said.

Besides being an improvement for recreation, the launch will also aid water rescues and should cut down on the time it takes for emergency crews to access the water, Seegers and Peters pointed out.

Quandt said those who join the paddle will be given a waterways map published by Northeastern Indiana Water Trails. Because the stretch traversed is downstream, the paddle should be an easy one and through relatively placid water between the two dams, she said.

She recommends those interested in joining to bring two cars and park one at each end of the trip. Kayaks and canoes will be available for rent from Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot, 1004 Cass St. More information and reservations are available at 420-3962 and fwoutfitters.com.

Information about the trip and livery service is also available from neiwatertrails.com.

rsalter@jg.net