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October 3, 2012

Utica hike/bike trail on hold until 2013

By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
The refurbished bridge over the Clinton River in Utica’s Heritage Park was a major portion of the hike and bike trail that was completed in 2011. Plans to extend the trail through Utica to River Bends Park in Shelby Township are on hold until 2013.

UTICA — Despite being on the Macomb County Department of Roads schedule for 2012 projects, the completion of the Utica hike and bike trail is on hold until 2013.

According to the MCDOR’s 2012 schedule, construction was set to begin on the path last month with a completion date of July 2013, but MCDOR Director of Planning Joe Crumm said the project is on hold until 2013.

“The project will not begin this year,” Crumm said. “We are waiting for Utica’s engineering firm to obtain permission to put a box culvert under the railroad.”

Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan could not be reached for comment about when that permission to cross the railroad that runs concurrent to the Clinton River behind Eppler Junior High would come.

Crumm said that once the MCDOR gets the go-ahead in 2013, it shouldn’t take long to complete the $ 1,742,323 project, and it could still be finished by its original completion deadline.

“If we started in May, we’d be done probably in mid-July,” Crumm said. “We’re eager to get going. We just don’t have the culvert situation cleared up.”

Completion of the trail in Utica, which will run from Memorial Park in downtown Utica, near City Hall, to River Bends Park in Shelby Township, would be one of the final links in a trail system from Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township to Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township.

“It was David Bonior’s initiative, the idea of linking (Lake St. Clair Metropark) to Stony Creek Park in the mid-‘80s,” Noonan said at the opening of the trails in Utica’s Heritage Park and Memorial Park in July 2011.

“By 1989, it was part of our long-term vision to have those two joined. Utica was committed from day one to see the hike and bike trail move forward.”

Once the last portion of the trail in Utica is complete, the only gaps will be in Shelby Township, where officials laid out plans for completion earlier this year.

“We’re going to come out of River Bends and out to Dequindre, where if you go left, it will be the Clinton Trail, and right will be the Macomb Orchard Trail,” Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood said earlier this year.

Starting with the trail out of River Bends Park, there are plans to construct three miles of path in Shelby Township that would connect parks in Shelby Township, Utica, Sterling Heights, Clinton Township and Harrison Township.

The proposed trail extension needs final approval from the Shelby Township Board of Trustees and is contingent on a $300,000 Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant that Shelby Township applied for in April.

Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis did not want to comment on specifics, but he said that he would have a better idea of where the process to complete the trail is at as soon as Oct. 4.

If the township board gives the go-ahead, the path would run from River Bends Park along Ryan Road to Holland Ponds Park, near 22 Mile and Ryan roads.

The trail will go through Holland Ponds’ trails to Chief Gene Shepherd Park at 2452 23 Mile Road and continue on 23 Mile Road to Dequindre to the intersection of the Macomb Orchard Trail in Shelby Township and the Clinton River Trail in Rochester.

Users could then traverse the Macomb Orchard Trail to Stony Creek Metropark.

“It’s been a long-range project, and we’re excited to see the end,” Youngblood said. “It will be a nice, safe route for residents, rather than the roadways. And from the number of users we see on the Macomb Orchard Trail, it’s a testament to the necessity of these asphalt trails.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brad D. Bates at bbates@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.