By Melinda Baird, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission received a standing-room-only crowd in response to its invitation for public feedback regarding Border-to-Border (B2B) trail alignment options along Huron River Drive. More than 80 community members, many of whom live in The Preserve and Loch Alpine subdivisions, attended the informational meeting February 1 at the Dexter District Library. Parks Planner Peter Sanderson led the session.
Sanderson was most interested in hearing community feedback pertaining to an up-and-coming three-mile trail segment from the intersection of Huron River Drive and Zeeb Road to Delhi Metropark, and ultimately to Wagner Road. Although the WCPARC 2016 Master Plan indicates the north side of Huron River Drive as the preferred trail alignment, the segment is in early design stages and therefore malleable to public feedback—particularly from impacted property owners.
“One of our goals is to not overly intrude on someone’s private property and put a trail on their front porch,” Sanderson said.
From Zeeb to East Delhi Road, the north side of Huron River Drive has been tentatively selected by the commission to avoid trail placement in very close proximity to a few homes and to avoid a steep road/railroad drainage swale further to the east on the south side of the road, the Master Plan states. This alignment (which would cross to the south side just before Greenook Boulevard and continue along the existing railroad right-of-way) would pass near the backyards of several homes, but many of these homes have greenery in place to visually obstruct the road from their properties, it goes on to say.
An alternative would be to align the trail along the south side of Huron River Drive, although the cost would likely be twice as much due to the need for more extensive retaining walls, Sanderson said. This alignment would help avoid several midblock crosswalks on Huron River Drive but would significantly open nearby residents’ view of railroad tracks.
A third option, less explored by WCPARC, is to align the trail along the railroad tracks beginning at Zeeb Road, Sanderson said. This would require the arduous process of working with the federal railroad administration, which has long-term goals for significantly increasing the frequency and speed of trains in the area.
After some feedback from individual property owners on both the north and south sides of Huron River Drive, Sanderson said he and his planning team would look more carefully at south side alignment.
“From what I think I’m hearing, people are more inclined to align the trail on the south side if we can avoid placing it in someone’s front yard,” Sanderson asked, receiving a resounding yes from the audience.
Sanderson said no matter which alignment is ultimately chosen the commission will work with the privacy needs of individual property owners, which may include the planting of trees and/or installing of fence.
The commission is currently working on grant applications for the Zeeb to Wagner Road segment and hopes to move forward fiscal year 2019 into fiscal year 2020, Sanderson said.
The B2B Trail is a ten-foot-wide paved shared-use pathway along the Huron River Greenway connecting Dexter, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti. About 26 miles of the 35 are complete with the largest remaining gap between Dexter and Ann Arbor. An additional 44-mile trail loop connecting the city of Chelsea, Waterloo State Recreation Area, Stockbridge’s existing Lakeland Trail, Pinckney State Recreation Area and the city of Dexter will plug into the B2B Trail, which will ultimately plug into Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail from Belle Isle to Ironwood.
“You can see we’re right in the middle of a very large regional statewide network of trails,” Sanderson said of the coordinated efforts between WCPARC, Washtenaw County Road Commission, Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Department of Natural Resources as well as privately-funded initiatives.
Community members interested in providing feedback may email Sanderson at email@example.com.