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Shelby Township

Shelby trail project presses on despite lost federal funding

October 2, 2013

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A team of Shelby Township employees worked to salvage part of a state grant after losing federal funding for a Shelby Township-Utica trail project. They plan to forge trails from River Bends to the Macomb Orchard Trail and from the Macomb Orchard Trail to Chief Gene Shepherd Park. They also plan to connect the Yates Trail to Chief Gene Shepherd Park.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — When they heard the news that $1.9 million in federal funding for a trail project connecting Shelby Township and Utica parks fell through due to bids coming in higher than estimates, Shelby officials scrambled to find money anywhere they could.

Shelby Township Deputy Supervisor Brad Bates explained that the Board of Trustees initially allocated $65,520 in 2010 to the project, and then he; engineer Carol Thurber; Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department Director Joe Youngblood; and Business Manager Cindy Martel worked to find additional funds for a total of $177,097.50.

Although the federal funding disappeared, the township will still receive a 40 percent return in state funding from a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund (MDNRTF) grant, which will supply $108,543.62, for a total of $285,543.62

“(The money) was already budgeted for projects that could be applied as a match,” Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. “Because they found this money, we are able to build at least $108,000 of paved trail in Shelby Township at no direct cost to our taxpayers.”

The team found the additional $111,577.50 for the trails in sidewalk funding, Shelby’s contribution to the Dequindre Road crossing project, a force account for hacking trails through foliage, and an engineering and environmental service township fund.

Youngblood also said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has committed to leaving the opportunity open to expand the township’s grant as they work toward leveraging more funds for the trails.

Instead of constructing trails from Utica to Stony Creek through River Bends, Holland Ponds, Chief Gene Shepherd Park and the Macomb Orchard Trail as originally planned, Shelby officials now plan to forge trails from River Bends to the Macomb Orchard Trail, and from the Macomb Orchard Trail to Chief Gene Shepherd Park, as well as connect the Yates Trail to Chief Gene Shepherd Park.

John Crumm, director of planning for the Macomb County Department of Roads, said that bids exceeded estimates by 10 percent because of the railroad tracks near Utica High School. He said the railroad company said the trail would have to go above or below the tracks.

“Now, we are negotiating with the railroad to see if we can not do a bridge or tunnel,” he said. “Typically, their issue is a liability of that line, but that particular portion of that line has not been used in quite a while.”

Thurber said there is a time cap for the trail grant — March 2015 — so she wants to begin construction by late fall of next year, since asphalt cannot be laid after the beginning of November; she is already drafting designs.

She also is working on applying for the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program grant, which is due Oct. 28 in advance of a December meeting, so they will know how much they will get by the beginning of January — up to $200,000.

“Everyone realizes the importance of this project,” Thurber said. “That’s why we were able to get the DNR grant, and that’s why we’ll probably get the alternative grant, too.”

Shelby officials and Crumm were in agreement on one matter: they will not give up efforts to complete the loop from Stony Creek Metropark to Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township, which began in 1995.

Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan could not be reached for comment.

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