It took approximately five years to develop the Hills 275 Trailhead, which is considered the first trailhead along a federal highway in Michigan. Local artists assisted with creating the look at the Hills 275 Trailhead.

It took approximately five years to develop the Hills 275 Trailhead, which is considered the first trailhead along a federal highway in Michigan. Local artists assisted with creating the look at the Hills 275 Trailhead.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Farmington Hills makes history with Hills 275 Trailhead

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published September 20, 2021


FARMINGTON HILLS — Back in 2016, Farmington Hills Deputy Director of Special Services Bryan Farmer was heading home and trying to find the quickest route to get there.

During his trip he saw a historical property off of Nine Mile and Haggerty roads, and thought, “Man, that would be cool to make a trailhead right there.”

Farmer said it was just a random thought, but not long afterwards he got a phone call that began a process of turning it into more than that.

“A month later I get a phone call from our liaison, from our historic commission, and the historic commission had an inquiry about a property called the David Simmons home, and that was actually on Haggerty Road, between Eight and Nine Mile,” Farmer said.

The David Simmons House wasn’t the one Farmer had seen on his trip approximately a month prior, but what he heard on the other end of the phone was enough to get his attention.

“Between Eight and Nine Mile there’s this property that a developer wanted to put a hotel on, but it was a historic property with a home on it,” he said. “I looked it up as we were talking, and (it) happened to be right off the trail of 275. … That’s like, ‘That’s crazy that I’d get this call now.’”

Farmer said he informed the person on the other end of the phone that the city wasn’t going to take the house, but he did pose a question.

“What do you think about making a trailhead off of that? Keeping the house there — maybe we could use the house for something else and the hotel can still be built,” he said. “That’s sort of how the idea came about.”

That idea spawned what came to be known as the Hills 275 Trailhead, which took approximately five years to develop and is considered the first trailhead along a federal highway in Michigan.

On Aug. 30, Farmington Hills city officials cut the ribbon at the trailhead, which is located at 22100 Haggerty Road in Farmington Hills.

According to a press release from the city of Farmington Hills, “The significance of (the) Hills 275 Trailhead is that it is the first trailhead along a federal highway that was approved and given access onto a FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) limited access right of way and access a highway trail through MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) property.”

Information provided by the city also states that the Hills 275 Trailhead borders the 275 Metro Trail, which was the first trail ever created along a federal highway in the country back in the 1970s.

The Hills 275 Trailhead was developed as part of a public unit development between Woodspring Suites Hotel and the city of Farmington Hills.

The David Simmons House is located on the property, but it was repurposed into an office building.

The trailhead provides dedicated parking for 275 Metro Trail users, and it offers amenities such as a water bottle filler station, bike racks, seating, trail information, and a bike repair station.

According to the city’s press release, with a place to legally park and access the 275 Metro Trail, “Trail users are provided a safe way to access the trail and ultimately have the opportunity to travel by trail to Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and even the Upper Peninsula, by way of the Lake-to-Lake Trail and the Iron Belle Trail that is being established in the state of Michigan.”

Farmer said that local artist Molly McNeece created some artwork for the trailhead, with another local artist, Ted Lee Hadfield, fabricating the sign that was placed at the Hills 275 Trailhead.

“That was a really cool art component as part of the trailhead,” Farmer said.

Hadfield, who said he is an arts commissioner for Farmington Hills, estimated that it was a 2 ½-month project.

“It was a very engaged endeavor and quite lengthy in time,” he said.

Hadfield added that the trailhead is something that “very few people are really aware of,” although he expects that to change.

“This is gonna bring in a lot more people,” he said. “There’s a bicycle station where you can lift your bike up and set it on a mount, and then all these various bicycle tools on cables that you can pull out and work on your bicycle. (It) also has a pump tire inflator that’s at the station and a drinking fountain, so it’s pretty cool.”

McNeece is a resident of Farmington Hills and an art teacher at Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology.

She discussed how she became involved with the project.

“I got a phone call from the city. I had been working with some people in our community, and they knew my artwork,” McNeece said. “I became very excited at the idea, not only of the bike trail in our community, but being able to put an image with it, because we are the city of trees, and to me, bicycles and trees and that sense of freedom and nature went hand-to-hand.”

Farmington Hills resident Kris Jaussi is a ride leader for Cycling for Active Adults.

Having already been familiar with the metro trail, she has noticed the difference the Hills 275 Trailhead has made.

“First, parking is in a public place where there’s other cars around, and (with) the hotel being there, you feel safe that should there be any emergency, you’re not off by yourself with nobody around at all,” Jaussi said. “Second, it’s very inviting. The archway, the bench, the water fountain — it’s like you (want to) walk towards it and check it out or ride towards it. … They really thought through the amenities, for lack of a better word, that cyclists need.”

The difference between the Hills 275 Trailhead and the 275 Metro Trail can get a little confusing.

Farmer attempted to help clarify.

“The trailhead is not an actual trail. It’s more of a park and an access point to get onto the larger trail system, which starts, and you get out through, the Metro Trail,” he said.

Farmer said the trailhead is “a place to sort (of) chill out and take a break, or just a small little park to be able to enjoy before you get on your bike.”

He shared his perspective as to the primary benefit of the trailhead.

“It’s legal access to utilize an under-utilized trail system. A lot of our residents don’t even realize we’ve got this amenity right there along 275 that you could ride for miles,” Farmer said. “The true benefit is that you can legally park in that parking lot at the trailhead, take your bikes off your vehicle, and ride for as long as you want. It’s a place to be able to access the trail.”

The historical significance of the Hills 275 Trailhead may have helped carve out a path for other communities to follow.

“It’s (going to) make a difference on every federal highway trail, because this is now the example that other communities can say, ‘Hey, they did it? How do we do it?’ That’s the cool part about it: We’re making a big impact here; maybe a small trailhead and a small park, but it’s creating a whole new change of access to these trails that are allowed (along) federal highways,” Farmer said.

He added that there’s other trails along federal highways, but, “They didn’t allow it on these other trails the way they’ve allowed us to do it. Now it provides other communities’ opportunity.”

Farmer said the trail is mainly for biking and hiking, with no motorized vehicles allowed.

As for how it was funded, he said the developer covered most of the expense, with the city putting less than $20,000 into it and Panasonic donating $10,000 toward the project “because they believed in it.”

Farmer wasn’t positive about the overall cost of the project but said that the amount put in by the hotel developer was “significant.”

Another perk could be on the way for those who enjoy using the trail, as Farmer expects the Great Lakes Water Authority to improve it from Eight Mile north, about 4 miles, within the next year.

“That whole trail will be redone,” he said.

With her part in the Hills 275 Trailhead, McNeece played a role in something that could turn out to be a community asset for many years to come.

“It’s a wonderful connection between communities that connects people and the outdoors, and freedom to explore our neighborhood,” she said.