Gary Hopp,  the park operations manager for Stony Creek Metropark, shows off one of the single-track, multiuse, natural surface trails in the Shelden Trails system, which will soon be redeveloped.

Gary Hopp, the park operations manager for Stony Creek Metropark, shows off one of the single-track, multiuse, natural surface trails in the Shelden Trails system, which will soon be redeveloped.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Stony Creek Metropark’s Shelden Trails to get a facelift

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 31, 2018

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ROCHESTER HILLS/SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelden Trails at Stony Creek Metropark will soon be redeveloped, according to Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority officials.

Nina Kelly, chief of planning and development for the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, said the Shelden Trails development project was initiated in response to public input from the Stony Creek Metropark master planning process in 2016.

When Kelly first started with the HCMA in early 2015, she said, none of the metroparks had a master plan.

“My department and I came up with a planning process and a schedule to have a plan developed for each one of our 13 metroparks. Due to its popularity, Stony Creek was the first one that we tackled,” she said. “This project was really identified as part of that planning process.”

As part of the planning process for each of the parks, Kelly said, officials hold a minimum of two public meetings.

“For Stony Creek, the folks coming out for the Shelden Trails came out in force. The mountain bike community was especially represented, and it was great from a planning perspective because we had over 100 people at our first public meeting voicing support for the trails and support for looking at our redevelopment to make them more user-friendly — not only from a mountain biking perspective, but also from other users’ perspectives.”

Popular with mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and cross-country skiers, the Shelden Trails received approval from the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority to extend and develop the trail, Kelly said.

“The trails are used by people on bikes, people on foot; they are used for cross-country skiing if we get a good snow in the winter. So a lot of people want to be in this one area of the park.”

The problem, she said, is that the Shelden Trails were not explicitly designed as a multi-use trail system.

The Shelden Trails are currently composed of 14 miles on 670 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 Shelden Trails, located in the southwest portion of Stony Creek Metropark, are also 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.

Kate Kowalski, a volunteer services manager for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, said officials are currently in phase one of the project: planning and design. In conjunction with other grant funds and major gifts, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Foundation was recently awarded $35,000 from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Fund for Design and Access from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which allowed for the hiring of Applied Trails Research as the project’s design consultant.

“We are moving forward with the development of the trail system,” Kowalski explained. “What that means is really doing an assessment of, are we using the area to maximize the trail usage? But then also looking at the safety. Do we have the proper signage so that it is multi-use so people that are running are comfortable with the mountain bikers?”

With the design process underway, the Metroparks Foundation is shifting its focus to raise funds so the construction and redevelopment of the trails can begin in the spring.

A “Howlin’ at the Moon” fundraiser will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Stony Creek Metropark. The event will include a 1-mile owl prowl hike and a 5K fun run or mountain bike to support the new Shelden Trails development project. The cost to attend is $20, all of which will go toward the project. To register for the event, visit www.metroparks.com/sheldentrails.

The overall goal of the Shelden Trails development project, according to Kelly, is to make the trail system as easy and intuitive as possible for all trail users.

“We want to improve the safety. We want to improve the signage that’s out there right now, so people can use it confidently and make sure that they can get where they want to go and understand where they’re at in the trail system. We want to make the trail more sustainable, so that we’re not dealing with erosion problems or anything like that. We definitely want to try to connect it as best as possible to the surrounding trail network in the surrounding neighborhoods, because we do have access points into this trail from the surrounding neighborhoods currently, so we want to look at opportunities for improving that and also getting neighbors’ feedback on that,” said Kelly.

Because the Shelden Trails are in a designated biodiversity area, Kelly said, care will be taken to realign the trails to protect sensitive natural areas.

“Our natural resources department focuses a lot of attention at looking and maintaining and making sure that sensitive species are being avoided when trail work is being done,” she said.

As they move through the Shelden Trails development project planning stages, Kelly said, user groups and residents will be invited to participate in public meetings to voice ideas and input on the new design. Officials are hoping to present the plan to the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority Board of Commissioners in December.

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

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