Iron Belle Trail plans continue

By David Fleet
On Feb. 1, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources hosted a meeting to discuss the future of the Iron Belle Trail north connecting the Lake Orion and Independence to trails north in Atlas Township. The gathering was at the Orion Center, 1335 Joslyn Road, Lake Orion an included representatives from the MDNR, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and leadership of local communities.
Dakota Hewlett, is the assistant coordinator for the Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail project.
“The meeting was to get everyone that may have an interest in the Iron Belle Trail together,” she said. “The idea was to get a discussion started as to what the trail was going to look like and how it was to move forward. We did not come out of the meeting with any decisions. Several alterative directions (for the trail) were discussed to provide a plan for the future. The discussion was a look at feasibility and open dialog regarding routes. A direction west toward Groveland Township is more likely.”
At issue was support for a possible segment of 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. 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. Currently, about 68 percent of the hiking and biking Iron Belle Trails are completed statewide.
The biking trail is proposed to traverse 791 miles, includes the Polly Ann Trail in Oxford and Orion.
Brandon Township, Supervisor Kathy Thurman, Treasurer Terri Darnell and Trustee Scott Broughton attended the meeting.
“Brandon Township voted to not build a section of the Iron Belle Trail,” said Thurman. “They did indicate public hearings on each route would be scheduled in the future.”
On Oct. 5, 2017 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.
Still the trail connection north toward Atlas Township and the Grand Blanc area continues to grow.
Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma responded to a possible route of the Iron Belle Trail along Dixie Highway from Oak Hill Road to just south Exit 106 where it would connect with Grand Blanc Township. No representative from Groveland Township attended the Orion meeting.
“The trail would be easy to facilitate and fit within the Dixie Byway concept,” said DePalma. “Grand Blanc and Independence townships have trail systems—it makes sense. However, the state would pay for it—the people of Groveland Township would have the response as the Brandon people. We are not paying for a trail system when there’s state land in the township—we’re not paying for someone to walk in the woods. We (Groveland Township) are the smallest population in the county.”
DePalma added that much of the west side of Dixie Highway in Groveland Township was state land.