Category: Blog

Elk Rapids Rotary Park Public Input Session

We are excited to announce that we, along with the Village of Elk Rapids, are looking for public input on a preliminary design of improvements for Elk Rapids Rotary Park. We announced this project back in 2019 and are very excited to be moving forward to the community input phase. 

In 2017, the Village of Elk Rapids completed a Recreation Survey and a universal kayak launch was an identified improvement for Rotary Park. Rotary Park is an important access site on the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. As we lead the development of the water trail this project helps ensure that it is accessible to paddlers of varying levels of mobility. Once completed this will be one of two universal kayak launches on the water trail. The first universal launch was installed at Milton Township Waterfront Park which is a beautiful 5 mile paddle from Rotary Park. 

After bidding out to multiple firms we landed on working with Gourdie Frasier, Inc. to develop a preliminary design on improvements, including a universal kayak launch, for Rotary Park. They have been busy working on a design option which will be presented at the public input session on Thursday, July 9 from 6-8 PM at the Elk Rapids Rotary Park.

Participants can speak with the design team including Gourdie Frasier, Inc., Paddle Antrim, and Village staff, in an open house format. We encourage participants to share their thoughts, ask questions, and provide feedback. 

Based on feedback received, the team will develop a final draft to be presented to the Village of Elk Rapids Parks and Recreation Committee and the Elk Rapids Village Council. 

The Open House will follow all COVID-19 guidelines. For those who cannot attend, information can be found at, which will include a copy of the design and a short recording with background information.

A copy of the design will also be available for review at the Elk Rapids Village Hall, 315 Bridge St, from July 10-July 24, during business hours. Written comments can be submitted a)at, b) emailed to, or c) mailed to Paddle Antrim, PO BOX 323, Elk Rapids MI 49629. Comments must be received by July 24, 2020 at 5:00 pm to be considered.

Anyone with questions about the project, process, or event can contact Paddle Antrim at 231-492-0171 or

Paddle Antrim is grateful for the financial support of the following who made this project possible: Elk Skegemog Lakes Association, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, Elk Rapids Rotary Club and individual Rotarians, Village of Elk Rapids, Disability Network of Northern Michigan and Gourdie Frasier, Inc.

2020 Paddle Antrim Festival Cancelled

Dear Friends,

For the last five years we have welcomed paddlers to northern Michigan to experience our pristine waterways during the Paddle Antrim Festival. It is with a heavy heart that I announce the difficult decision to cancel the beloved festival for 2020. This year has not turned out as any of us have expected and to hear of another cancellation is likely not the news you were looking for today. The festival is the highlight of the paddling season for us and many of you so this was a very difficult decision we made based on careful consideration of CDC, State, and local orders and guidelines for the care of our entire community.

We know many of you are anxious to be on the water and connect as a community. We hope you will take time this summer and/or early fall to explore new routes on the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. We have been hard at work to make it easier for you to plan and seamlessly execute your paddling trips on the almost 100 miles of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail.This summer we will install signs at all 81 access sites, and have a paddler guide and new website ready for you to plan your next adventure.

Thank you for your continued support and understanding, 2020 is not the year that any of us expected. We look forward to sharing exciting news about the Chain of Lakes Water Trail with you in the near future and seeing you at the next Paddle Antrim Festival, September 16-18, 2021.

Warmest regards,


Warmer Weather Brings Cold Water Safety to the Forefront

Here at Paddle Antrim paddler safety is of the upmost importance. Northern Michigan is expected to see air temperatures in the range of 70 degrees this week and while we are excited for the warmer weather we want to remind everyone that the water is still extremely cold. During this strange time of social distancing, many of us are relying on nature more than ever for entertainment which means you are likely itching to get out on your boats. Now more than ever it is important to keep in mind the danger of cold water and remind your friends and family of the threat as well.

While the air may feel more like summer, the many lakes are only about 40-60 degrees. At this temperature a wet suit or full immersion dry suit with insulating layers is necessary. Sudden immersion in cold water can cause gasping and inhalation of water and hypothermia, resulting in unconsciousness or swimming failure as muscles become numb. Wearing a life jacket may keep your head above water and support your body should your swimming ability fail or you become unconscious. We want everyone to know the risks of cold water. If you don’t have the right equipment to take the necessary precautions, please stay off the water until it warms.

Cold water claims of lives of many experienced and inexperienced paddlers each year. Please take the extra precautions to ensure your safety. Here are the steps you need to take before heading out on the water for any period of time:

  • Always wear a properly fitted life jacket. Simply stated, life jackets save lives;
  • Dress for the water temperature;
  • Avoid boating alone and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Have a cell phone or VHF radio accessible, in a watertight bag, should you need to call for help;
  • Carry essential safety gear, signaling devices and whistles; and
  • Refrain from using alcohol.

Below you can view a cold water safety PSA featuring our Executive Director, Deana Jerdee

An Update From Paddle Antrim


We wanted to take a moment and check in with you. Like you, we are taking a moment to read the ever-changing flow of the situation, and identify a plan to best navigate these uncharted rapids.

We believe that access to nature is critical during these times and will continue to be. Therefore, thanks to incredible donors who helped us create a successful capital campaign, we are working with local businesses to finish the tasks needed to open the Chain of Lakes Water Trail this summer, continuing to positively impact our region during these times. We know that once we are able to travel again, even more people will be looking for experiences like this to reconnect with nature and loved ones and we look forward to welcoming you and others to the Chain of Lakes Water Trail.

Due to changing economic conditions, we are evaluating the continuation of other programs. We are pausing to assess our summer programming as well as our Ripple Effect Mini Grant Program. We are working with key stakeholders to determine how we can best encourage people to get out on the water in a safe manner. We will make thoughtful decisions in the coming months and will keep you informed of our actions and our progress.

With your support, we will continue to work hard to fulfill our mission to protect our waterways and connect people to nature! Thank you, and stay safe. We look forward to our days out on the water with you again!!

Warmest Regards,


Paddle Antrim Adds Water Trail Expert and Seasoned Marketing Professional

Elk Rapids, MI – Paddle Antrim is pleased to announce the addition of a water trail expert and a seasoned marketing professional to their growing organization. Harry Burkholder joins the board of directors and Ellie Kirkpatrick joins the staff as a marketing and outreach specialist.

Burkholder, a Traverse City resident, has established himself as one of the foremost authorities in Michigan for water trails and recreation authorities. In 2019 Burkholder took on the role as COO at The Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Prior to this, he was with the Land Information Access Association (LIAA) where he established himself as one of the foremost authorities in Michigan for water trails and recreation authorities.

Kirkpatrick and her family recently relocated from Grand Rapids to the Village of Elk Rapids. Her family’s enthusiasm for Northern Michigan and its vast offering of outdoor recreation and access to beautiful fresh water drew them north. Kirkpatrick brings over 10 years of marketing and event planning experience with her to Paddle Antrim.

“2020 is shaping up to be a year of growth for Paddle Antrim and we couldn’t be more excited to have their expertise as we work to open the Chain of Lakes Water Trail,” says Deana Jerdee, Paddle Antrim Executive Director. “We are thrilled to have these great additions to Paddle Antrim and look forward to their contributions as we continue to grow and increase our mission focused work of protecting our waterways and improving access.”

Help us Open the Chain of Lakes Water Trail

When people have fun and positive experiences on the water, they fall in love with a place. It’s this sense of care that leads to a curiosity about what makes a place special and nurtures an instinct to protect it.

Paddle Antrim is currently leading and coordinating the development of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. Your support for this effort will help to create a high quality and accessible experience for paddlers of all ages and ability levels with over 80 miles of lakes and rivers to explore through numerous communities. By creating and enhancing access, we can engage more people out on the water, connecting them with nature and improving opportunities for their health and well-being.

“Paddle Antrim was formed 5 years ago with a mission to promote stewardship of our waterways for future generations and engage people out on the water. The annual festival they now host was inspired by the Short’s to Short’s paddle which celebrated where we live and also honored our journey as a small business. Paddle Antrim’s leadership of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail is key to providing an incredible experience out on the water, connecting people to lakes and rivers they’re falling in love with and want to protect, and promoting the development of the trail as an asset to support the economic vitality of our small communities. I’m proud to be one of the earliest supporters of their work.”  Joe Short, Founder of Short’s Brewing Company 

To open the water trail for all users, we need your help raising $70,000 by December 31st. This is the final 25% of our capital campaign goal of $275,000. Over the past four years, we have worked to secure 81 access sites owned by 17 jurisdictions to open up over 80 miles of water trail to be explored. The State of Michigan recognized our efforts to date by designating us a State Water Trail; the only water trail in Northern Michigan and the only lake-system trail in the state. With your gift, in 2020, we will:

  • Install signs at each water trail access site where there is an approved agreement
  • Develop a waterproof guide for paddlers to use while out on the water
  • Update our website so people can plan their paddling experience
  • Share stewardship, safety and community information on signs, guides, and online

These outcomes will not be possible without your support. We look forward to opening the trail and continuing to work alongside our public and non-profit partners to protect the lakes and rivers you love for future generations. Please support this vision for an open and accessible water trail with a year-end 100% tax deductible donation.  Thank you for your consideration and continued support.

With Gratitude,


Paddle Antrim announces Public Phase of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail Capital Campaign

Paddle Antrim is pleased to announce the public phase of its capital campaign to open the Chain of Lakes Water Trail.  The water trail includes over 80 miles of trail through sixteen unique lakes and rivers. To date, Paddle Antrim has raised over $180,000, two-thirds of its $275,000 capital campaign goal. 

Through this campaign, Paddle Antrim will install the signage and develop materials needed for users to have a quality experience out on the water. The signs and materials will include practical information on the trail but also convey important messages such as stewardship, safety and highlight the local communities. Such information ensures paddlers will have a safe and enjoyable adventure but also be informed on how to be good stewards of our lakes, rivers, and wildlife.

“The water trail is about connecting people to our waterways and our communities in a low-impact manner,” says Deana Jerdee, Paddle Antrim Executive Director. “The Chain of Lakes Water Trail will be a unique asset for the region. It is one of only eight state-designated water trails in Michigan, the only water trail in Northern Michigan.”

According to recent outdoor recreation studies, participation in all paddle sport industries are on the rise and water trails are a way to help those paddlers have a quality experience while out on the water. Water trails encourage healthy lifestyles, provide a sense of community and place, encourage preservation of waterways for future generations, and positively impact local businesses.

“The communities and businesses along the Chain of Lakes Water Trail are so fortunate to have this “ever-lasting gift” presented to them!” says Mary Faculak, CEO/President of the East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce. “The economic impact of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail will be far-reaching and will only continue to grow and flourish over the years.”

“We are grateful for our generous supporters who have helped us reach this point in the campaign and depend on the support of the community and others who value protection of our waterways and access to nature to help us complete our goal,” says Jerdee.  Significant contributions have been made by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, The Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation, DTE Energy Foundation, Frey Foundation, and many of the local governments and non-profits who own and maintain the access sites on the water trail. 

Paddle Antrim is working to complete this campaign by the end of the year so that installation of signage and development of materials will be complete for the 2020 paddling season. For more information on the campaign and to donate, go online: or contact Deana Jerdee, executive director at 231-492-0171 or

Improvements planned for Elk Rapids Rotary Park

Paddle Antrim is working with the Village of Elk Rapids to design improvements to Rotary Park. This project will include identified improvements and provide opportunities for community input.  “Improvements to Rotary Park, including a kayak launch, were identified in the Village of Elk Rapids’ Recreation Survey in 2017,” says Caroline Kennedy, Elk Rapids Assistant Village Manager. “We appreciate Paddle Antrim’s support in securing the funding for this project and look forward to working with the entire community to better utilize this beautiful park.”

Paddle Antrim is leading the development of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail and Rotary Park is a key access site for the water trail. This water trail is one of eight state-designated water trails and the only one in Northern Michigan. Paddlers can explore over 80 miles of trail through sixteen different lakes and rivers, providing a variety of different paddling experiences for all levels. “The Village of Elk Rapids is a key community on the Chain of Lakes Water Trail and Rotary Park is the ideal location for paddlers to begin or end a quality paddling experience, “says Deana Jerdee, Paddle Antrim Executive Director.  “We are excited to work with the Village and other partners to make improvements, including a universal kayak launch to assist those with varying levels of mobility be able to access the water.  This project would not be possible without the generous support of many organizations.” 

Generous funding for this project was provided by Elk Skegemog Lakes Association, Elk Rapids Rotary Club, Community Foundation, Village of Elk Rapids, Disability Network Northern Michigan, Gourdie-Frasier & Associates and individual Elk Rapids Rotarians. “Elk Skegemog Lakes Association is proud to support the improvement of access to our waterways.  We support Paddle Antrim’s water trail efforts and inclusion of stewardship of our resources as part of the trail,” says Mary Beth Kazanski, President of the Elk Skegemog Lakes Association. 

For more information on this project contact Paddle Antrim directly at or 231-492-0171 or go online at 

Paddlers Take to the Chain of Lakes

Elk Rapids, MI – Paddle Antrim is ready to celebrate Northern Michigan’s Chain of Lakes at the Paddle Antrim Festival September 12-14th.  This event is highlighted by 170 paddlers embarking on a two-day paddle through the Chain of Lakes and includes community events all weekend long for the entire community. 

On Friday September 13th paddlers will launch from the Village of Ellsworth’s River Park and paddle up to 15 miles to the Village of Bellaire.  On Saturday, they will continue from Bellaire and paddle up to 27 miles to the Village of Elk Rapids.  “This event highlights the pristine and diverse waters and quaint communities that our area has to offer,” says Deana Jerdee, Paddle Antrim executive director. “Watching all of the paddlers launching in Ellsworth together is a pretty amazing sight.”

There will be community events all three days and Paddle Antrim encourages the entire community to come out and be a part.  The Paddle Antrim Festival starts with the Kick-off Party on the 12th from 5:30-8:00 pm at Ellsworth River Park (6625 Bridge St). There will be great live music from Holly Keller-Thompson as well as opportunities for great food from Miller’s Sweet Roasted Corn. The party continues Friday afternoon from 2-5pm in Bellaire’s Richardi Park with music by Leslee and Peter and outdoor games. 

The Festival concludes with a Final Bash Saturday afternoon from 3-9 at Short’s Brewing Company’s Production Facility (211 Industrial Park Dr. Elk Rapids).  This family friendly event features great food by Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen, brews from Short’s Brewing Company, and live music by Olivia Mainville and Jakey Thomas. There will be outdoor games for everyone to enjoy. 

For more information, please go online at, email or call 231-492-0171. 

Paddle Antrim Awards nearly $3,000 to the Region

Paddle Antrim announced it will award $2,965 to five projects that benefit Northern Michigan’s waterways through its Ripple Effect Mini Grant Program.

“We are pleased to support and enhance these local projects that align with our mission, focusing on collaboration instead of duplication” says Deana Jerdee, Paddle Antrim’s Executive Director. In the past four years, Paddle Antrim has awarded over $24,000 through this program.

Three projects focused on stewardship intiatives in the region. Antrim Conservation District was awarded $565 toward the installation of a rain garden in Ellsworth in conjunction with the school’s Lancer Leap program. The Boardman River Clean Sweep was awarded $400 for equipment to host a clean up on Torch River in August. The Au Sable Institute was awarded $500 toward installation of a greenhouse to grow their own plants for their REYS program which provides environmental education to 5th graders.

Two projects focused on improving access to local lakes. The Village of Bellaire was awarded $500 for continued development of a non-motorized boat launch at Richardi Park for the Chain of Lakes Water Trail.  Disability Network of Northern Michigan in collaboration with Leadership Charlevoix County was awarded $1,000 toward development of a non-motorized boat launch at Ferry Park in the City of Charlevoix.

Paddle Antrim’s Ripple Effect Mini-Grant Program awards grant to local non-profit and governmental organizations whose projects align with their mission to protect the water resources and enhance the economic vitality of the region through stewardship, education, improved water trail access and promotion of the waterways.  The funding comes from revenue earned through classes and events. The next round of funding will be in October 2019. To learn more about Paddle Antrim, the Ripple Effect grant program or the Chain of Lakes Water Trail, please visit