By Susan Bromley
Brandon Twp.- Four residents have been appointed by the township board to a subcommittee that will research an Iron Belle Trail connection in the community.
The township board approved by a 6-1 vote to appoint Dwight Woodbridge, Paul Barber, Jennifer Bickel, and Candice Hill to serve in a volunteer capacity on the trails subcommittee to compile questions and research answers to all of the components involved in building and maintaining a trail. Their appointment will end Nov. 20, 2018. Trustee Bob Marshall was the sole no vote, as he explained he wished to be consistent in his opposition to establishing the trail in the township.
“We tried to get a composite of different opinions about trails and I think we succeeded in doing so,” said Supervisor Kathy Thurman, who is serving on the trail subcommittee along with Treasurer Terri Darnall and Trustee Kris Kordella. All were in agreement on recommending the resident appointees to the board.
The elected officials were appointed to the trails subcommittee at their June 5 meeting and on June 27, they interviewed nine of 16 total applicants for the four citizen positions on the subcommittee.
The 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 was 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.
Topics the subcommittee will likely discuss include maintenance costs, liability, safety, crime, privacy, and property values related to a trail. Thurman hopes to host the first meeting of the subcommittee within the next three weeks.
“We will discuss the roles of the committee and begin gathering questions we would like answers for,” she said.