A celebration of the River District, River Hop is more than your usual community festival; it is a community conversation. Neighbors come out of their houses, chatting on front lawns over garage sale treasures, trading gardening and house remodeling tips, sharing the latest news in local politics and schools, enjoying an evening potluck picnic together in the park, all while a local band plays on.
Barbara Lucas, one of the event organizers, explained that the community is trying to encourage the use of “River District” to describe the area around Ann Arbor STEAM (formerly Northside Elementary School). Think Pontiac Tr. up to Barton Dr., the Argo area, and everything over to the Huron River as it curves through town.
“We are close to downtown and central and north campuses,” Lucas explains. “You can walk or bike anywhere from here.”
By bicycle is certainly the way one should explore the many events of River Hop. Last year there was a bike tour of the cultural and natural history of the River District and a wheelchair-accessible walking tour of the history and architecture of Lower Town. The county’s Border-to-Border Trail runs along the river under the Broadway Bridge, connecting to Maiden Ln. and U-M Hospital without having to cross Plymouth Rd.
At the “Cool and Green Bike Ideas” session, bicyclists on every kind of bicycle from recumbent to electric to fixed-gear shared tips and tricks. The nonprofit organization Common Cycle brought an entire bicycle repair station on a cargo carrier pulled by bicycle. Standing in the shade of a young tree on the edge of Northside Park, it felt surreal listening to Common Cycle board member Steven Kronenberg describe how easily he commutes through the winter by wearing a balaclava–plus a ski helmet and ski goggles to keep his eyeballs from freezing.
“Walk of the Wildflowers,” “Native Grasses of the Cascade,” and a morning bird hike explored the native species in the area. There were arts, gardening, and skills classes, from paddleboard and kayak lessons to pottery, sculpture, beekeeping, natural landscaping, and designing the ecology of your yard or permaculture gardening. A community “visioning session” imagined the potential of this part of town.
This year’s River Hop, July 28-30, will include nature hikes, history tours, and a kid-centric bike ride around Argo Pond (see Events listing for full details).