City goes back to the drawing board on trail plan

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published November 17, 2015

 Jane Rodgers, of Rochester Hills, left, and Elizabeth Kinsler, of Lake Angelus, look at trail maps on the Clinton River Trail in Rochester Hills. The proposed nonmotorized trail through Troy would connect with the Clinton River Trail.

Jane Rodgers, of Rochester Hills, left, and Elizabeth Kinsler, of Lake Angelus, look at trail maps on the Clinton River Trail in Rochester Hills. The proposed nonmotorized trail through Troy would connect with the Clinton River Trail.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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The plans for the city’s trails and pathways system will take another turn after the state withdrew a $600,000 grant when residents objected to the route.

Bethany Baker, president of the Hills of Charnwood Homeowners Association, said the initial proposed pathway went straight through the subdivision, and almost 100 percent of the neighborhood residents didn’t want it to go through Charnwood, located west of Coolidge Highway and north of Square Lake Road.

Concerns included a drop in property values and increased crime.

This summer, the Michigan Department of Transportation awarded the city a $600,000 Transportation Alternative Program grant for the trails and pathways system. The council agreed to appropriate $500,000 each year for three years to fund the path in three phases.

The proposed 11-mile nonmotorized trails and pathways system would connect the Clinton River Trail in Auburn Hills to the Troy Civic Center Campus, on Big Beaver. The plan is separated into three segments, with a goal of completing one segment per year.

The first 2.47-mile segment would have connected the Clinton River Trail in Auburn Hills to Firefighters Park, on Square Lake, east of Coolidge, and would have comprised dedicated asphalt pathways and shared-use local roads through the Charnwood subdivision, which is a designated city bike path.

The second segment is planned to go from Firefighters Park to Sylvan Glen Lake Park. The third segment will head from there to a proposed dog park across from Troy Community Center.

During forums Aug. 20 and Oct. 5, residents of the Hills of Charnwood said they and other residents opposed designated bike lanes marked on streets in their subdivision.

“We are not funded for that grant now, and it’s mainly because of the result of public dialogue and engagement that says people are against it,” said Troy City Manager Brian Kischnick during a joint study session with the Troy City Council and the Planning Commission Nov. 9.

“What we heard, (feedback from residents) is we like the idea of a pathway, but not in our neighborhood,” said Bill Huotari, deputy city engineer.

Jennifer Chehab, senior project engineer for Hubbell, Roth & Clark, the contracted firm that would provide engineering services for the trail, said the city will try for another TAP grant for a different route.

She explained that the statewide TAP grant for nonmotorized trails looks “for some sort of connectivity. That’s why we’re looking at connection to the Clinton River Trail and also connection to recreation (parks).”

“Statewide, public engagement is a very important part of TAP  grant funding,” Chehab said.

Plan B
“They (TAP grant officials) like this project,” said Kischnick. “It’s just a matter of having the right route.”

After learning that Troy was turned down for the $600,000 grant, Troy Mayor Dane Slater said he wondered if the city was wasting its time on the project when  “a small percentage of the city could determine if we get funding for a grant. I’m looking for direction, if we should even look at it anymore.”

Planning Commissioner Michael Hutson said he was disturbed that “such a small sample of the city could torpedo a grant.”

After discussion of three proposed plans, the council and Planning Commission agreed, by consensus, to pursue the grant, with a couple of changes, for the first phase of the trail and pathway system.

The new route would run from Adams Road and South Boulevard east to Coolidge Road and south to Northfield Parkway as an off-road dedicated pathway. This would connect to Firefighters Park, located north of Square Lake Road, between Crooks Road and Coolidge Highway. The path picks up from Northfield Parkway and Coolidge Highway south to Boulan Park, located west of Crooks and south of Wattles, as a mix of off-road dedicated pathway and in-road dedicated bike lanes.

A dedicated off-road pathway would proceed through Boulan Park to Crooks Road, then south on Crooks Road to Wilshire Drive, and from there to Troy Center Drive and Big Beaver Road as an in-road dedicated bike lane.

Troy resident Dan Smith said he moved to Troy from Sylvan Lake, which was the connection between the West Bloomfield Trail and the Clinton River Trail. He said that pathway was approved and grant-funded after overwhelming pushback from residents.

“It has been great for the community,” Smith said. “Nobody has any problems with it anymore.”

“Maybe you should have come up with these plans before applying for the grant,” said Teri Lafontaine, a 44-year Troy resident. “I still think it’s very unsafe for bikers to go through neighborhoods. … I don’t care that people ride through our subdivisions, but there shouldn’t be a designated bike route in subdivisions.” 

“The truth is we did engage and we did involve residents,” said Troy Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek. “That’s why we’re where we are. What we’re seeing are constructive conversations. It’s part of the process.”

“This is important to me,” Slater said of the trails and pathways plan. “Residents have said this is an important part of their community.”

The city plans to submit a grant application for the new route.

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