By Susan Bromley
Brandon Twp.- Do you want an Iron Belle Trail connection in the township?
Officials want to know, via email, the answer to that question. They also want your name, complete address and only persons over age 18 to respond. One answer per household please and send your support or opposition to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The trail subcommittee would like the community to voice their opinion on whether or not they are in favor of an Iron Belle Trail segment through Brandon Township,” said Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman on Thursday morning, the day after the trail subcommittee met. She acknowledged querying strictly by email response was not very scientific and opens the committee up to a deluge of emails, but said that was the consensus request. Opinions on routes are not sought, just a simple yes or no to whether a trail is wanted.
The trail subcommittee consists of Thurman, and board trustees Scott Broughton and Kris Kordella, as well as residents and volunteers Dwight Woodbridge, Paul Barber, Jennifer Bickel, and Candice Hill. The subcommittee was convened last month to begin answering researching the answers to numerous questions surrounding a proposed township connection to the Iron Belle Trail, a state project which seeks to establish two separate continuous trails, one for biking and one for hiking, from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in the U.P. 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 after using DNR grant funds to determine four potential routes in the community— Route A, which is 7.6 miles from Baldwin to Sherwood to Sashabaw to Hummer Lake to Mill Street; 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; Route C, a 7.7 mile route utilizing the ITC corridor, with an estimated cost of $4,968,900; and Route D, 8 miles from Baldwin to Granger to Hadley to Hummer Lake to Mill Street with an estimated cost of $8,127,205. The most popular route on the survey, which had a total of 558 respondents, was Route C, the safest and least expensive, which received 40 percent support on the survey.
However, the board removed Route C from consideration after passing a resolution drafted and brought by Broughton, who lives along the proposed route. Routes B and D would also adjoin his property, but Broughton has not voiced formal objection to these routes.
Broughton was joined by Clerk Candee Allen, Treasurer Terri Darnall, and Trustee Bob Marshall in supporting the resolution against Route C. Thurman and Trustees Dana DePalma and Kordella voted no on removing the route earlier this year, but since then, residents have been packing township board meetings, requesting other routes be removed or voicing their support for any trail connection. Monday night, there was again both support and opposition to the Iron Belle Trail voiced by residents.
At the Aug. 7 meeting, the township board voted 4-2 against a motion to have Hubbell Roth and Clark study a potential trail route from Seymour Lake Road to M-15. The study would have been done at a cost not to exceed $1,500.
“I don’t want to spend $1,500 if we’re not going to get the answers we want,” said DePalma, who was joined by Darnall, Kordella and Marshall in voting no to the motion. Allen was absent.
Thurman and Broughton voted in favor of the study, which was requested by Woodbridge, trail subcommittee project manager.
Thurman said the feeling of the board is that a “ballpark” figure can be reached by determining the number of miles on that route and averaging cost estimates already received on other trail routes.
State officials have made clear they would like to know by October whether the township plans on going forward with an Iron Belle Trail connection, regardless of which route it would take through this community.
Email responses on whether residents want the trail must be sent by Sept. 12. Residents without internet access can fill out a form at the supervisor or treasurer’s office, or call 248-627-4918 or 248-627-2853.
Prior survey results will not be counted.
“Some of the members of the committee feel the previous survey was flawed because it was done over the internet and it is difficult to know how accurate it was,” said Thurman. “Other members thought they were good surveys. We’re trying to get everyone’s opinion.”
By Susan Bromley