By David Fleet
About three months following township board of trustees vote ending the future of the Iron Belle Trail through Brandon Township, deliberation on just how the trail will move forward remains murky.
Kristen Bennett, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Iron Belle Trail coordinator said debate over a revised route between Orion Township in Oakland County and Atlas Township in Genesee County is still ongoing.
“This area remains a challenge and there will not be a simple solution,” said Bennett. “With SEMCOG and Oakland County’s help, we will be scheduling a meeting hopefully for February to discuss what the feasible options may be. We will be inviting representatives from Orion Township, PollyAnn Trail, Independence Township, Clarkston, Springfield, Groveland and Brandon townships and Atlas Township in Genesee County as well. Even if Brandon Township ends up not directly on the Iron Belle route, it is still important to have their input into the process as their citizens will likely be using this trail once built and a future connection planned.”
The trail took a new route when on Oct. 5, by a 7-0 vote the township board of trustees nixed a possible segment of the Iron Belle Trail through the township.
The unanimous vote came after hours of citizens comments, deliberation, subcommittee presentations and questions asked of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources who also attended the meeting that attracted several hundred to the Brandon High School Performing Arts Center.
At issue was support for a possible segment of the Iron Belle Trail connecting Brandon Township on 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. Deliberation centered around routes chosen to utilize existing trails in the state to which new trails could connect and be the safest for trail users, 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 have included at least seven miles of trail in Brandon.
The trail connection north of Brandon Township toward Atlas Township and the Grand Blanc area continues to grow.
The 1.1 mile Gale Road trail was created by the citizen-led group Walk, Bike, Run Atlas Township and recently opened extended from the Goodrich Schools to the Village of Atlas. Through a grass roots effort, Atlas Township officials and residents distributed surveys community-wide, established a social media outlet, and actively engaged residents, leading to success in the effort. The process included voters passing, by a 1,664 yes to 1,502 no margin, a 1/8 mill or $6 per year for a $100,000 home that is generating about $33,292 per year to fund the pathways in the township. The trails millage was the first of its kind in Genesee County and one of just a few in the State of Michigan, say county officials.
In October, by a 5-0 vote the Atlas Township Board of Trustees OK’d a scoping project from the sidewalks in front of the Goodrich Village offices north to Perry Road along the west side of M-15. The cost of the project is $4,357.77 to be completed by Flint-based OHM advisors.
The scoping project is necessary for a possible pathway along M-15 connecting with proposed route west on Perry Road to Atlas. The scoping or pre-engineering is the first step in getting a grant for the project. The township board of trustees also postponed a motion to move forward on a section of trail connecting Atlas to the Grand Blanc Township line until more information is received.
The 1.6 miles of trail is projected to parallel Perry Road connecting with the Gale Road trail and the Atlas to Irish Road trail, followed by the Irish Road to the Grand Blanc Township line. The next priority will be the M-15 trail to the Oakland County line.