The entire 8.9-mile-long Paint Creek Trail was  resurfaced with crushed limestone in 2019.

The entire 8.9-mile-long Paint Creek Trail was resurfaced with crushed limestone in 2019.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Paint Creek Trail group dedicates bridge, celebrates trail resurfacing project

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 24, 2021


OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Officials celebrated the long-awaited dedication of a new bridge on the Paint Creek Trail, along with a trail resurfacing project, this fall.

Although both of the projects were completed in 2019, officials had to delay the dedication ceremonies last year due to social distancing guidelines amid COVID-19.

“We learned a lot from these two projects: that things don’t always go as planned, and to embrace the unexpected,” said Melissa Ford, the manager of the Paint Creek Trail. “Both of these projects were completed two years ago, and we had hoped to hold the ribbon-cutting in the spring of 2020, but as we all know, COVID had other plans.”

Ford said it’s a blessing the projects were completed when they were, as the trail has experienced “an unprecedented number of users since the start of the pandemic.”

“For a time, the trail was one of the only options available in our community for recreation. Countless individuals found solace in the natural beauty of the trail, whether through a vigorous job, a leisurely walk or a solitary bike ride. The trail provided a space for social distancing and a chance to get outside after a day of working from home, or assisting a child with remote learning,” she explained.

Crews completely replaced a 95-year-old timber pedestrian bridge located on the trail between Dutton and Silverbell roads during the summer of 2019. Trail officials say the design of the new 75-foot keystone-style steel truss bridge — called Bridge No. 33.7 — greatly improves accessibility for trail users and also supports a greater load capacity, allowing the safe crossing of maintenance and emergency vehicles. Funding for the bridge project was provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Trust Fund grant program, a Transportation Alternatives Program grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation, and a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. The Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Department, which is responsible for the maintenance of Bridge No. 33.7, also contributed a $156,000 cash match for the bridge replacement.

During the same time period in 2019, the entire 8.9-mile-long trail was resurfaced with crushed limestone. Officials said resurfacing of the trail is an ongoing cyclical event, with the last resurfacing in 2004. The four member communities of the Paint Creek Trailways Commission  — Oakland Township, Orion Township, Rochester and Rochester Hills — each committed funds toward the resurfacing of its section of the trail. Additional funding for the project was provided by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

Paint Creek Trailways Commission Chair Donni Steele said the commission is thankful for the generous grants, along with the continuous community collaboration, which allowed these long-standing projects to become a reality.

Over the past several years, she said, those on the Paint Creek Trailways Commission have also selflessly donated their time and energy to improving, watching and caring for the Paint Creek Trail.

“You’ve heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Well, I’ve learned that it takes five villages, good managers, bike patrol, police, Friends of the Paint Creek, the county, the state and the parks and recs to run the Paint Creek Trail,” she said.

The Paint Creek Trail was the first nonmotorized rail-to-trail in Michigan. The trail is an 8.9-mile linear park that runs through Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Orion Township and the village of Lake Orion in northern Oakland County. The trail is part of a regional rail-trail included in the Iron Belle Trail, a statewide hiking and bicycling trail stretching from Belle Isle Park in Detroit to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.

For more information on the Paint Creek Trail, call (248) 651-9260. To discover more about the Iron Belle Trail, visit