Exciting Updates on the Chelsea-Dexter B2B
By Doug Marrin
Saturday was a beautiful day to enjoy the outdoors. For a few folks, that meant exploring the new section of the Border-to-Border Trail (B2B) just outside Dexter on Dexter-Chelsea Road.
“We like to start our weekends with a walk,” said one trail user. “My husband and I try to walk a different part of the Border-to-Border each week. This new section is just lovely with the meadows and woods.”
The new segment begins at Dancer Road and extends east almost two miles through woodlands, wetlands, meadows, and a scenic horse farm, ending a half mile from Parker Road. Trail users can find a few parking spaces at the Dancer Road trailhead. It’s a beautiful walk or ride on a sunny summer morning with wildflowers in full bloom.
What is immediately noticeable is that the new trail is made of concrete instead of asphalt. Jeff Hardcastle, Board Chair for Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative (HWPI), explains that bid requests for all B2B trail projects ask the contractors to bid on concrete and asphalt pricing. Last year was unusual because concrete was less expensive than asphalt.
“Given its durability, we jumped at the chance to use concrete and were able to build four different segments and over four miles of trails with that surface,” says Hardcastle. “However, the cost pendulum seems to have swung back to asphalt this year. So, projects built over the next twelve to eighteen months will likely be again asphalt.”
HWPI is the nonprofit partner of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission (WCPARC), the organization leading the multi-agency effort to develop the B2B since its inception in the late 1990s. “Border-to-Border” refers to the trail's design extending from the Jackson and Livingston county lines across Washtenaw to Wayne County. HWPI has worked with WCPARC to procure state and federal grants and significant donor contributions.
The B2B Trail from Chelsea will enter Dexter by crossing Mill Creek. HWPI is funding a feasibility study to do so. One option is to use the historical Bell Road Bridge, built in 1891 and 104 feet long. The iron truss bridge has been dismantled and stored by the County. City officials expect to begin community engagement for the project in the next few weeks. Hardcastle points out that whether the project can be built in 2023 or 2024 will depend on the pace of permitting and results in securing the funding.
After that, the final 1.3-mile segment of trail from Dancer Road to the railroad tracks just west of N Lima Center Road needs to be constructed to complete the Chelsea-Dexter corridor of the B2B. Hardcastle expects planning for that section to begin in 2023.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Dexter, the ground has been broken for a one-mile segment of the B2B from Zeeb Road to Delhi Metro Park. Hardcastle explains that the contractor will begin work this fall and has a year to complete the project. Completion will create 4.4 miles of shared pathway towards Ann Arbor (the ultimate goal of this leg). It will also connect all three Metroparks in Washtenaw County.
Hardcastle also reports another 1.6-mile section along M52 from N Territorial Road to Boyce Road will be put up for bid this fall, with construction to begin next spring. That leg will eventually reach Stockbridge in Ingham County, where the Lakelands Trail will connect it to Pinckney and another planned portion of the B2B coming up from Hudson Mills Metropark.
“The B2B project is moving this rapidly due to HWPI being able to provide 30-35% of each project's costs, and those funds are coming from literally hundreds of local donors,” says Hardcastle. “Continued financial support from the public will be essential to completing the B2B over the next 3-4 years.”
Images: Unless otherwise noted, all images by Doug Marrin.