New weekly event brings kayaking and boat rentals to Battle Creek River

Alysha Taylor and Enrique Rodriguez are improving Battle Creek, and they jump in with both feet.

The couple are launching Better Together Floats, a kayak rental and delivery service on the Battle Creek River this week. They are teaming up with the city to roll out the service alongside BC Floats, a free weekly kayaking event that will allow people to experience the river and downtown Battle Creek from a whole new perspective.

“It’s not so much about kayaks or floats,” Rodriguez said. “We want to enhance the city center.

The kayak descent will begin near Wagner Drive near Emmett Street and end in downtown Carlyle Street. City events will be kicked off from the Kellogg House on Monroe Street.

“We’ve been working on this for a very long time,” said John Hart, director of development for Battle Creek Small Business Development. “We create a sense of belonging in our own downtown community and show that there are fun, active, natural and healthy things to do.”

From Tuesday to Sunday, people will have the opportunity to kayak through downtown Battle Creek. City-sponsored events will kick off on Thursdays in the heart of downtown, serving as an introduction to the river and giving people the option of night kayaking.

“It brings new people into the sport,” Hart said. “It gets people to come out and be active. It gets people to stop seeing the river as something just going through town. It’s a different perspective.”

Better Together Floats will offer longer trips five days a week. These will start further upstream.

“You go up and through nature … seeing deer, beavers, big snapping turtles, fish … and then you get out, go under a few bridges and you’re downtown. You are able to get off and enjoy the social district, go shopping, ”Rodriguez said.

Enrique Rodriguez of Better Together Floats carries a kayak to the Battle Creek River on Friday August 13, 2021 in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Taylor, 23, and Rodriguez, 28, had never imagined owning a livery, but when the city pitched the idea to them last year, it resonated.

Alysha Taylor and Enrique Rodriguez pose for a photo on Friday, August 13, 2021 at Social 32 in Battle Creek, Michigan.  The couple bought the cafe last December because they didn't want the pandemic to shut it down and are now opening a livery downtown.

“I was born and raised here, but I never went down our river,” Taylor said. “I got out of town and tubed and kayaked, but never went down our river, and I was confused as to why because it’s right in my backyard.”

With help from the city, Taylor and Rodriguez worked to prepare the Better Together floats and the river for launch. On the business side, they’ve gone through insurance and registration to make sure people are safe. They also set off in kayaks, armed with chainsaws, to clear down fallen trees and facilitate navigation on the waterway.

“All of these things that we never thought we would get into, but we’re so tired that people are underutilizing the city,” Rodriguez said.

This isn’t the first time the couple have taken on a project because they care about the city. Last December they bought 32 Social because they didn’t want the downtown cafe to close.

They had never owned a business before. At the time, both had 9 to 5 jobs, saving money with the intention of someday opening a trucking business.

“I didn’t know anything about coffee,” Rodriguez said. “But we saw it as an opportunity. We love the city center, we love the city in general. The Milton had just been revitalized, and it was something that everyone could build on. .. and we want to be a part of it. ”

For now, Better Together Floats offers kayak rentals. People can go online to, the downtown Facebook page, or the city’s small business development website and book a date and time. The rental service includes a ride to the launch point.

By next year, the livery plans to offer inner tubes for people who may not want to kayak.

Having a livery at Battle Creek will improve access to the river, Hart said. Many people are unaware of the opportunity to be on the river downtown, or lack the necessary equipment to experience it. Better Together Floats and BC Floats will change that.

“It is such an asset,” he said. “We’re trying to get people to go on the river… It’s something that extends beyond our city limits and into the county.”

Eventually, the city hopes to naturalize the Kalamazoo River when it arrives downtown so that it is possible for people to connect from the Battle Creek River to the Kalamazoo.

Enrique Rodriguez of Better Together Floats carries a kayak to the Battle Creek River on Friday August 13, 2021 in Battle Creek, Michigan.

“It’s something that we will have to develop in the years to come, it’s good take out and that sort of thing …” Hart said.

For now, Taylor and Rodriguez are hopeful that their new business inspires others to take the plunge and find their own way to help Battle Creek thrive.

“I’m hoping that with this startup, maybe there will be other entrepreneurs who will be like, ‘Well, I thought about this for a while so we can get started,’” Taylor said. “Maybe that can be the spark.”

The city will sponsor the kayaking kick event on Thursday, August 19. Information on schedules and rentals will be available on the Small Business Development website.

Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh.

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