Stony Creek Metropark’s Shelden Trails redevelopment project begins

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 17, 2020

 The Shelden Trails redevelopment at Stony Creek Metroparkwill occur in various phases over multiple years and will add nearly 6 new miles.

The Shelden Trails redevelopment at Stony Creek Metroparkwill occur in various phases over multiple years and will add nearly 6 new miles.

Photos provided by Huron-Clinton Metroparks

Advertisement

The Shelden Trails redevelopment project at Stony Creek Metropark is underway.

Huron-Clinton Metroparks is redeveloping its Shelden Trails system in the hopes of improving trail sustainability, expanding the existing system, adding accessibility, improving signage and reducing user conflict.

Popular with mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and cross-country skiers, the Shelden Trails were not explicitly designed as a multi-use trail system, according to Nina Kelly, the chief of planning and development for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. 

The trails are currently composed of around 15 miles of mostly user-created paths on approximately 650 acres of steep hills, woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and the historic remnants of the Shelden Estate Greenhill Farm — which was gifted to Stony Creek Metropark by Elizabeth Shelden in 1981 for public recreation. The trails were developed mainly from old roads, footpaths and previous trails.

The trail system’s previous lack of purposeful design, Kelly said, has led to off-trail paths being developed, a lack of safety for users and trails running too close to sensitive habitat areas.

“We have a lot of user-created trails and a lot of signage issues. If you were a new user of the trail system, it could be very easy to lose your way in there — and there are some sustainability issues with erosion of the trails and fear of actually losing some of the terrain because the trails were maybe not built in a way that was sustainable initially,” she explained. 

The Shelden Trails Development Project was initiated in response to public input from the Stony Creek Metropark master planning process in 2016. 

“Stoney Creek, out of all the metroparks in our system, has the most robust mountain biking opportunities … so I was really excited when we were able to start doing the fundraising, getting the community involved, and now, ending up here, with an actual construction project that is going on. I think it’s several years in the making, and we’re really excited to get to this point now,” Kelly said.

The redevelopment, which will occur in various phases over multiple years, will add nearly 6 new miles of singletrack and a resulting approximately 11.5-miles of singletrack system. The trails — which will be completed by the contractor Flowtrack — will be redesigned into five loops that officials say will improve rider flow and provide better connectivity to each loop system.

In mid-June, crews kicked off the first phase of construction — which includes brand-new trail loops A and B, and a 0.64-mile connector to Oakland Township’s Stoney Creek Ravine Nature Park to the north of Stony Creek Metropark. The first phase of the project is slated to cost around $223,000. 

Loop A, which is 1.9 miles and accessible from the park’s West Branch parking lots, is the Metroparks’ first natural surface handcycle accessible trail. Users are now able to rent a handcycle at Eastwood Beach, thanks to a grant from the League of Michigan Bicyclists. The first phase of the project also includes Loop B, which is 1.74 miles and accessible from Loop A, as well as an improved signage and wayfinding system to implement on the new trails and eventually continue through existing trails. 

“In total, it’s going to be over 4 miles of new trail in this first phase,” Kelly said. “What’s exciting is that Loop A will actually be built to be accommodating for those using handcycles. It’s another way to make a natural surface trail in the woods more accessible. We’re trying to look for opportunities to do that wherever we can.”

Flowtrack is continuing work on the first phase of the project in August, which is expected to be complete by the end of the year. 

“Hopefully, we are going to see some increased usage out there and bring some people to the park who may not have been here before,” said Gary Hopp, the operation manager for Stony Creek Metropark. “There’s a lot of buzz about these trails, and hopefully, the word will get out to the community.”

Until the new trails are complete, park staff is asking the public to stay off the new trails to ensure there is no damage done to the trail segments under construction. Construction will continue throughout the summer and early fall, but park staff said all existing trails remain open for users to enjoy.

Additional phases of the Shelden Trail development project will add three more loops, the 2.41-mile Loop C, the 2.22-mile Loop D, and the 1.11-mile Loop E. The overall trail redevelopment project is expected to cost around $425,000.

 Kelly said renovations to the trail system, which will occur over multiple years, will be specifically designed to help protect and preserve the area and its biodiversity, making it more sustainable and discouraging users from leaving the trails and creating “bandit” trails that encroach on critical habitat. 

Located in the southwest portion of Stony Creek Metropark, the Shelden Trails are part of an 800-acre forest habitat that officials say is one of the largest and most biodiverse forest tracts in southeast Michigan. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory’s report on Stony Creek Metropark says that much of the vegetation in the Shelden Trails area is relatively unchanged from what was found there in the 1800s, and it constitutes a significant contribution to the region’s biodiversity. The land is now protected as part of Stony Creek Metropark. 

For more information on the project or to become involved, visit www.metroparks.com/sheldentrails.

Advertisement