State grant paves way for trail expansion, completion

Herons will not be disturbed, officials say

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 9, 2013

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Priceless experiences and views along a paved trail from Lake St. Clair to Stony Creek Metropark could come, thanks to a $300,000 state grant.

Pending approval of the state Legislature, Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood said a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will finance the long-held plan of linking Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township to the 4,461-acre Stony Creek Metropark.

“The $300,000 grant is going to be a step up Ryan Road through Holland Ponds and through Gene Shepherd Park,” Youngblood said of the trail’s path through Shelby, from River Bends Park, near 22 Mile and Ryan roads, to Gene Shepherd Park, near 23 Mile and Dequindre roads.

“And that portion going through Shelby Township is going to be one of the most scenic trails in Metro Detroit and Michigan. People are going to be real pleased with that,” Youngblood added.

The trail will traverse north, from Gene Shepherd Park on Dequindre, to just south of 24 Mile Road, where it will intersect the Macomb Orchard Trail to the east and the Clinton River Trail to the west.

“There’s no doubt it will bring people into Shelby,” Youngblood said. “And, if you go further up Macomb Orchard Trail, we’re working on a pocket park, where people can park there and use restaurants in Shelby Township, and they’re going to park there, ride down the trail and use our parks. And that’s what we want.”

Along with linking Macomb County’s Metroparks, the trail will also connect routes traversing as far east as Richmond via the Macomb Orchard Trail and as far west as Lake Orion, by way of the Clinton River and Paint Creek trails.

“The trail system statewide is very large and not every community is on board with it, and we’re very fortunate in Shelby Township that our (Board of Trustees) is on board to make this connection in Macomb County and southeast Michigan,” Youngblood said.

He said the planning of the trail took into consideration that Holland Ponds Park is home to the state’s largest great blue heron rookery, and by using the park’s northern trails, it should give the wildlife enough room to coexist with trail users.

“We did look into that,” Youngblood said of the effect trail traffic may have on the nesting and migration habits of the township’s heron population, because traffic in other municipalities has disturbed birds after a trail was completed near a nesting site.

“We had our park supervisor, Kerry Crosier, look at it, and he was familiar with the other situation, and he looked at the distance we are from the rookery. He feels there will be no harm to the rookery whatsoever.”

Youngblood said that a portion of the trail leading from Lake St. Clair Metropark, through downtown Utica and out of River Bends Park to Ryan Road will be finished by the end of summer in 2013, and he hopes to have the rest of the project in place by 2015.

“In spite of five fewer people working in Parks and Recreation (since 2010), Joe Youngblood and his department have done a great job maintaining and expanding our parks without missing a beat,” township Supervisor Richard Stathakis said.

“And I want to credit Joe, his staff and (township engineer) Fazal Khan in obtaining the $300,000 grant. (Youngblood) led the way and had much support from his staff and Fazal Khan.”