The red lines show the 4 miles of connector trail to link River Bends Park, the Macomb Orchard Trail, the Clinton River Trail and Gene Shepherd Park.

The red lines show the 4 miles of connector trail to link River Bends Park, the Macomb Orchard Trail, the Clinton River Trail and Gene Shepherd Park.

Screenshot by Kara Szymanski

Shelby to have trail connector installed to connect Iron Belle trail

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 27, 2020


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelby Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its July 21 meeting to allocate $160,000 to construct a multi-use connector trail in Shelby Township that is part of the Iron Belle Trail.

The township is funding the local connector with a combination of capital improvement funds and funds from its sidewalk budget.

The project will consist of a local connector route that extends from River Bends Park east along 22 Mile Road, then north along Shelby Road and Mound Road, and then west along 24 Mile Road to establish a connection from River Bends Park to the Macomb Orchard Trail, Gene Shepherd Park and the Clinton River Trail.

The Iron Belle Trail is a Michigan Department of Natural Resources project to connect Belle Isle in Detroit to the city of Ironwood at the Upper Peninsula’s far western end via continuous hiking and biking trails for more than 2,000 miles.

The township conferred with the DNR, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Macomb County Department of Roads, which led to the decision that the Macomb County Department of Roads would be the lead agency to design and construct the trail in Shelby Township.

The total cost of the 10-foot-wide trail project in Shelby Township is thought to be $10 million-$12 million, and the MCDR plans to use its nonmotorized trail funding along with federal and state grant monies. The trail will be constructed over the next five to eight years.

Trustee Lisa Casali said she is excited about the trail project.

“I’m really excited about the DNR of Michigan, their showcase trail that is a hike trail and a biking trail — two separate trails that intersperse from Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula. The part that we are looking at is the original connection that goes through our township, and it runs through River Bends Park up to the Clinton River Trail, which then will connect the Paint Creek and continue on north, and each county or city is responsible for their portion of this Iron Belle Trail. That was the original trail that we decided on years ago. It was planned in 14 segments, and three of the segments are complete,” Casali said during the meeting, which was held via Zoom videoconferencing.

With this new piece of the trail, officials said that direct access to the Iron Belle Trail will be provided to approximately 4,500 homes, or 15,000 residents, for a total of approximately 7,350 homes and 24,300 residents who will have access to the Iron Belle Trail directly from their residences.

According to the township, nearly a third of Shelby Township’s residents will be able to access the Iron Belle Trail without having to get in their cars.

“This means many residents don’t have to have a bike carrier, go to their local parking lot (and) hop on their bikes to get to our parks and trail, which is what people have been asking for. One of our top 10 priorities in the beginning of the year was to have a connection to River Bends and Gene Shepherd Park,” said Casali.

Shelby Township is asking for the construction of pedestrian crossing improvements at 22 Mile, 23 Mile and 24 Mile roads as necessary maintenance items from the MCDR. The township will be responsible for signage, sidewalk repairs and connections, additional striping, and any accessibility improvements to make the connector safe for residents.

Rick Stathakis, the township supervisor, said this project is one that the township had been talking about doing for quite some time.

“Connecting the Iron Belle Trail is something we’ve been talking about for years and years, and we’re finally getting it done. The nice part about this is the $10 million-$12 million will be coming from outside sources, and we’re only on the hook for about $160,000. It’s a great price,” Stathakis said.

Casali said the township came up with connector route as an alternative to earlier plans to save costs and time to complete the project.

“We simply couldn’t handle the cost to the township at this time. We drove the township and came up with an alternative. We’re calling it the Shelby Local Connector,” she said.

“Everybody loved the local connection for many reasons. For one, we can complete that in one year. And two, the cost is going to be much less to the township,” said Casali.

The township is expected to begin and finish the project in less than a year from when it receives approval.