By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.-The Gale Road pathway started to take shape earlier this month.
Trees were removed along the south side of Gale Road between the Goodrich High School and the Village of Atlas prior to moving gas and utilities to the east side of the road.
The pathway should be completed by September, said Barry June, Genesee County Parks deputy director and township trustee.
“Contractors began work clearing the road right-of-way,” said June. “Grading should start June 15, after school is out for summer, to avoid more congestion. It’s been a long process, but we should be on the path by fall.”
In December 2015, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund announced its final recommendation for $300,000 in funding for the construction of a one-mile long path along the Gale Road right-of-way. The township trail will parallel the west side of Gale Road, providing a safe access to Oaktree Elementary School at its southern end, and tying into existing sidewalks in the Village of Atlas on the northern end.
The trail was created by the citizen-led group Walk, Bike, Run Atlas Township. County officials recognized the township group’s initiative to create new recreational trails within their community. Through a grass roots effort, 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 will generate 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.
The estimated cost of the Gale Road Trail will be $778,173. The $300,000 from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant plus $300,000 from the Transportation Alternatives Program or TAP Grant will comprise about 80 percent of the money needed for the project. The balance, about $180,000 in matching funds, will be provided by Atlas Township from the millage approved in November 2014.
The Atlas section of trail will be part of the Iron Belle Trail, a statewide project to connect Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in the Western Upper Peninsula, more than 1,200 miles. The completed project will actually be made up of two trails, one for hiking and one for bicycling.
By David Fleet