By Susan Bromley
Brandon Twp.- The township is being asked to give an answer on the Iron Belle Trail a lot sooner than planned.
A subcommittee formed earlier this month with appointments to last until Nov. 20, 2018, may not have to serve quite that long. The subcommittee met as a whole on Tuesday for the first time, joined by Kristen Wiltfang, senior planner for Oakland County Economic Development and Community Affairs, who made a request.
“She basically told us we need to make a decision fairly quickly as to whether we want a segment of the Iron Belle Trail to come through the township,” said Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman. “They will plan the route around the township if we are not interested in having it come through. The state wants to know by October because they want to get commitments of where the trail is going to be routed to.”
The trail subcommittee consists of Thurman, Treasurer Terri Darnall, Trustee Kris Kordella, as well as four residents serving in a volunteer capacity— Dwight Woodbridge, Paul Barber, Jennifer Bickel, and Candice Hill. The subcommittee was formed to compile questions and research answers to all of the components involved in building and maintaining a portion of the Iron Belle Trail in the township, including liability, safety, crime, privacy and property values.
Brandon Township, as well as the Village of Ortonville, Groveland Township, and Atlas Township, are all on the proposed biking route for the Iron Belle Trail, a state project which seeks to establish two continuous trails, one for biking and one for hiking, from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula. The routes were carefully chosen to utilize existing trails in the state to which new trails could connect and be the safest for trail users and the environment and least expensive for communities. The biking trail is proposed to traverse 791 miles, includes the Polly Ann Trail in Oxford and Orion, and would include at least seven miles of trail in Brandon.
Last year, Brandon Township officials conducted a trail survey about four potential routes in the community to which 558 people responded, with 40 percent expressing support for Route C, a 7.7 mile route using the ITC corridor, which had an estimated construction cost of $4,968,900, the safest and least expensive of the four routes.
However, the board removed route c from consideration after passing a resolution drafted and brought by Trustee Scott Broughton, who lives along the proposed route.
Broughton was joined by Clerk Candee Allen, Treasurer Terri Darnall, and Trustee Bob Marshall in passing the resolution. Thurman and Trustees Dana DePalma and Kris Kordella voted no on removing the route.
Following that decision, residents along Route A, which is 7.6 miles from Baldwin to Sherwood to Sashabaw to Hummer Lake to Mill Street, and estimated to cost $5,851,400.00, also requested their route be removed. That action has not been taken. Instead, the board voted for the subcommittee.
Other routes under consideration are Route B, which is Seymour Lake to the ITC corridor to Granger to Hadley to Hummer Lake to Mill for 9.7 miles and costs $7,918,510; and Route D, from Baldwin to Granger to Hadley to Hummer Lake to Mill Street and stretches 8 miles for $8,127,205. The board may also discuss the non-survey option of placing the Iron Belle Trail in the township alongside Seymour Lake Road and M-15.
Proponents of the trail have cited health and economic benefits of a trail, as well as the lack of safe places to walk and bike in this community.
The subcommittee has a number of questions already that they will begin researching the answers to, but are seeking more questions that the community would like answered. Questions can be sent to BrandonTrailsSubCommittee@gmail.com.
“We are going to try and compile all the questions within the next two weeks and start working on finding answers,” said Thurman. “We hope to have some type of recommendation to bring to the board in September. I don’t know if the state needs a route by October, but they need to know if we are going to commit to the trail. I am thinking that if we decide to have a trail, we would be working pretty quickly on a route. If the board can’t reach a decision, that is more or less saying we can’t or are not ready to do it.”
The next trail subcommittee meeting is planned for 3 p.m., Aug. 9, at the township offices, 395 Mill St.