Published: 2023

/ Student Work

Running the River


This report is a proof-of-concept study of tax increment financing (TIF) as an option for providing stable and predictable funding for programming, improving, and maintaining water trails, conducted for the Shiawassee River Water Trail Coalition. This project assesses various amendments to Michigan law that might be made to authorize the creation of water trail TIF districts; it evaluates existing funding mechanisms for recreational trails; and it identifies and assesses four potential models of TIF structure using geospatial, financial, equity, and legislative analyses. We also conducted a survey, created a rendering of an accessible kayak launch site plan, and developed four water trail case studies.

The state and nationally designated Shiawassee River Water Trail, an 88-mile segment of waterway located on the Shiawassee River, traverses four counties and 22 different municipalities. Water trails increase property values, bolster local economic development, support public health, and encourage environmental stewardship. Despite state and national-level water trail designations and similar to other non-federal, long-distance recreational trails, water trails have few dedicated funding sources.


Kat Cameron, Catherine Carlberg, Marco Dominguez, Nida Khan, Luke Ranker, Elsa Soderberg, Olivia Stillman, and Alex Wilkinson


Richard Norton