Shelby Township received a Transportation Alternatives Program grant for around $276,000 to add approximately a half-mile of paved trails in River Bends Park as part of the project to connect the Iron Belle Trail from the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.

Shelby Township received a Transportation Alternatives Program grant for around $276,000 to add approximately a half-mile of paved trails in River Bends Park as part of the project to connect the Iron Belle Trail from the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


State grant allows Shelby Township to extend hiking, biking trail

By: Joshua Gordon | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 2, 2018

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A hiking and biking trail that is in the works to connect the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Belle Isle in Detroit will get closer to completion thanks to a new section scheduled to be installed in Shelby Township.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments announced June 18 that Shelby Township was one of several communities to receive a portion of $14 million in funding as part of SEMCOG’s Transportation Alternatives Program grant. Shelby Township’s portion is $276,518, which is to be used for a shared-use path connecting River Bends Park as part of the Iron Belle Trail.

The Iron Belle Trail is an ongoing project that is looking to use a 1,259-mile hiking route and a 744-mile biking route to connect Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle Park. 

TAP grants are used to facilitate forms of transportation other than cars and roads, such as biking and walking.

“These projects, we looked at a lot of regional traffic and nonmotorized plans, and these projects provide new transportation options,” said Kevin Vettraino, manager of plan implementation at SEMCOG. “(These projects) have a direct impact on helping get people out of cars and complement other projects going on in the area.”

Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood said the TAP grant will be combined with another grant that the township has already been awarded for just over $300,000 to continue a trail already started in River Bends Park heading northwest toward Holland Ponds and Gene Shepherd Park.

A portion of the Iron Belle Trail already runs through a majority of River Bends Park, located off Ryan Road, south of 22 Mile Road, but Youngblood said the nearly $600,000 will add about another half-mile of the trail heading toward Ryan.

The ultimate goal, Youngblood said, is to close the gap between River Bends Park and where the Iron Belle Trail currently ends along the Clinton River Trail at Dequindre Road. That will require continuing to apply for grants, he said, but they apply for everything that would be applicable to the trail.

“We need to make these final connections, and we are applying for grants, and we are lucky the township board is behind us in doing this,” Youngblood said. “We know how important the trail system is for our residents here in Shelby Township, so one day they will see this beautiful trail complete.”

Youngblood did not have a timeline on when the new section of the trail will be installed, as they have to first go through engineering design plans. The trail will have a layer of compressed stone, about 2 inches of asphalt and will be 10 feet wide.

The new portion will have benches, signage, trash cans and picnic tables. Youngblood’s staff will maintain the grass and weeds along the path.

Last October, Shelby Township cut the ribbon on a new trail connection between Gene Shepherd Park and the Macomb Orchard Trail, which starts around Shelby Township and goes through northern Macomb County. Youngblood said that when the trail gap is complete to the Iron Belle Trail, it will also connect with the Macomb Orchard Trail.

With all these trail systems, Youngblood said there are many options for bicyclists, walkers and joggers to explore areas all over metro Detroit.

“If you head down to the Macomb Orchard Trail on the weekends or after work, it is amazing the amount of users you see,” he said. “This project is a great positive step for all trail users, and seeing how many use these trails, we know we are doing the right thing.”

Staff Writer Brendan Losinski contributed to this story.

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