A proposed Northwest Passage through Dexter Township


This photo of a pathway segment is from the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative website

A newly introduced non-motorized pathway route is proposed for Dexter Township and if it comes to fruition then it could connect Dexter with the Pinckney community.

In the very early stages, the proposed pathway route was introduced at the Dexter Township Board meeting on Aug. 17, by board trustee Karen Sikkenga, who was giving an update on potential road and pathway efforts in the township.

Being new to the proposed project, Sikkenga told the board and public that Lew Kidder, who is a key person in helping to build the area’s pathway system, is forming and chairing a Steering Committee for the “Northwest Passage” on behalf of the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative.

The HWPI is a non-profit organization of community volunteers working to develop and expand non-motorized pathways that connect into Michigan’s growing trail network.

HWPI is working with the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission’s (WCPARC) Border-to-Border Trail (B2B) team, the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC), and other state and local government agencies to develop new non-motorized trail segments.

The name "Northwest Passage" is the working name for it right now, so it could change.

(But as an editorial note, I like it.)

The next steps are to have the steering committee begin to meet, and to encourage people to try out the proposed trail route, which is a 10-mile length of trail that will connect to the B2B at a northwest point in Hudson Mills, and continue along Dexter-Pinckney Road to Stinchfield Woods Road, and then through the Pinckney Recreation Area and Hell to the Lakelands trail.

Kidder said Stantec, an engineering and design consultant, has conducted a study for HWPI comparing different possible routes using criteria such as aesthetics, user experience, easement requirements, and stakeholder support and so on. He said they believe this route to be the best overall.

A lot of the route is dirt roads and some of it’s complicated, but Kidder said this proposed route like all of the segments pose their own challenges.

There’s still a way to go with planning and moving this forward, but recent history demonstrates the HWPI is a determined group who understand the benefits of an ever-growing pathway system.

In working to make things a reality, Kidder points to the recent example of construction starting on the pathway segment between Wylie and Dancer roads, which is using an easement over the old Beach Farm along Dexter-Chelsea Road.

To help this along, Kidder bought that farm a couple of years ago, so that they could design a safer and prettier route for the trail through that area.

And now he says, for a number of reasons, the "Northwest Passage"  is another segment with personal meaning to him and the HWPI.

This personal meaning, which has played a big part in his and the HWPI’s mission, is Kidder’s wife Karen McKeachie, a 63-year-old triathlete who was killed in 2016 after being hit by a driver while she was cycling on Dexter-Chelsea Road.

In her legacy, Kidder and HWPI created Karen’s Trail, which is a public campaign to support the building of the B2B trail system. 

Kidder said they’ve done a lot of the work through public-private partnerships. He said the proposed Northwest Passage route includes many areas where he and his wife were involved with through different events, including either cycling around Half Moon Lake or running to and swimming in Silver Lake.

He said connecting the trail to the Pinckney State Recreation Area and the Lakelands State Trail system seems like a good way to keep extending the path and carrying on the legacy.

Ultimately to make it happen, Sikkenga and Kidder say the steering committee and planners will need to finalize the specific route and design, raise the funds, get the easements, and do the construction.

“My guess is that it will need to be broken into smaller lengths of trail with each length of trail managed as a separate phase,” Sikkenga told The Sun Times News by email in follow up to the township board meeting. “The route as proposed is 10 miles and goes through multiple local government jurisdictions and land owners, primarily University of Michigan, State Recreation Area, and WCRC easement, so breaking it into phases makes sense.”

So stay tuned.

To offer any input or to learn more about the HWPI, go to http://huron-waterloo-pathways.org/.

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