Plans rolling forward for Grayling area Iron Belle Trail connector
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
From planning to paving, State of Michigan and Grayling area officials are rolling forward with a grant application to connect a non-motorized trail that will be located south of the community to an existing trail that travels through town.
Sixteen projects along Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail will share $350,000 in grant funding through awards announced on March 16 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“For this third round of Iron Belle Trail funding, the DNR received 41 applications. Each funded project will receive an amount up to $30,000 for improvements that include feasibility studies, preliminary construction and engineering of new trail segments, signage for trail segments and trailheads, environmental impact studies, and other uses,” according to the State of Michigan.
This year’s local grant recipients include:
• Crawford County – $25,000 for preliminary engineering of the trail segments between Kirtland Community College and the City of Grayling.
• Roscommon County – $30,000 to help fund a feasibility study, preliminary engineering and land acquisition assessment on a proposed 22-mile stretch through Roscommon County.
“Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail is the longest state-designated trail in the nation, encompassing more than 2,000 miles of Michigan on hiking and biking routes, allowing users to explore pristine forests and cool rivers while connecting big cities to smaller and diverse towns. The trail extends from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula,” according to michigan.gov.
Paul Yauk, state trails coordinator with the DNR, said that roughly 72 percent of the hiking route and 60 percent of the biking route now are complete.
“There were many worthy projects seeking funding this year. After much consideration and evaluation of these proposals, the chosen award recipients are the ones the department believes will best help develop Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail and strengthen our reputation as the nation’s Trails State,” Yauk said. “We are excited to be able to provide this support, and we will continue working with our many valued partners in bringing the Iron Belle Trail even closer to completion for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.”
In line with the recent round of grant funding, Grayling Charter Township is submitting an application to make the trail connector a reality.
The Iron Belle Trail Kirtland Community College Connector will be a 10-feet wide pathway, which will be approximately 4.75 miles long non-motorized trail, connecting to the City of Grayling’s Bike Route to the Kirtland Community College Health and Science Center in Grayling Charter Township.
The township is applying for $327,240 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and Iron Belle funds to pay for part of the trail completion. Funds from oil and gas and mineral lease and royalty payments go into the trust fund to acquire land for public use and to pay for public recreation projects.
Grayling Charter Township has committed $20,000 toward the project, the City of Grayling has budgeted $8,000, and Crawford County agreed to fund $5,000 as a local match for the trail. Trail development is part of the five-year, DNR-approved Parks and Recreation Plans for each municipality.
Kirtland Community College has committed $20,000 toward development of the trail connector.
“They’re a big proponent of the project,” said Stephanie Loria, the DNR appointed Iron Belle facilitator for northeast Michigan. “Eventually, they’re talking about developing their own spur trials into their parking lot that they will pay for and maintain, so that they can be a trailhead.”
The trail will begin at Four Mile Road, travel parallel to I-75, connect with a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) rest area, run adjacent to Industrial Drive, and connect with the bike trail at State Street in the City of Grayling.
“It’s going to be located within a section of the land that the township already owns in that area,” Loria said. “The township has a right to develop it.”
The Crawford County Road Commission is applying for over $1.3 million in funding from MDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program to cover a majority of cost for the trail connector construction. The total cost for the project is over $2 million.
Dave Stephenson, chairman of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, said development to the trail connector is included in a Memorandum of Understanding between the DNR and local officials.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of connectors to the trail once it gets developed,” Stephenson said.
Loria said the city, township, existing trail groups, and volunteers would be charged with cleaning and maintaining the trail.
“It’s all a collaboration,” she said.