Riders on the Clinton River Trail are pictured June 4, National Trails Day.

Riders on the Clinton River Trail are pictured June 4, National Trails Day.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

West Bloomfield Trail becomes township’s most used park

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 22, 2022


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Some West Bloomfield residents have discovered a location that can make them feel like they have been transported out of the township and into a completely different environment.

According to West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Jennifer Tucker, the West Bloomfield Trail is the most utilized aspect of the township’s parks system.

It attracts residents who enjoy taking walks and going for bike rides.

“We do not have trail counters but actually are budgeting for them,” Tucker said. “We know that it’s really well used, but we don’t know how well used. If you’re on the trail on a Saturday, the parking lot is packed at the trailhead. … The place is definitely our most used park, for sure.”

Tucker said the trail is around 7 miles and totals about 63 acres.

It is part of Michigan’s Great Lake-to-Lake Trail, which, according to trail-user and Keego Harbor resident Richard Harrison, goes from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan.

“You can go from Lake Michigan all the way to the east side of the state,” Tucker said. “It’s been pretty interesting.”

Tucker shared details of the West Bloomfield Trail, specifically.

“West Bloomfield did the trail system kind of in two parts,” she said. “The old trail, as we call it, goes from Sylvan (Manor Park) to Arrowhead (Road) — Arrowhead being right near where the West Bloomfield Nature Preserve is. And then the second portion of the trail is from Arrowhead to Haggerty Road, and that’s what we call the new section of trail.”

The West Bloomfield Trail extends through West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake.

According to the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission website, the trail is a former railroad corridor that has been purchased and developed over the years with the assistance of grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Some of the features of the trail include scenic overlooks, benches, bike racks, mileage markers, a picnic area and a seasonal portable restroom.

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department, things are expected to get even better going forward.

“It’s fantastic,” Tucker said. “We just received a grant to put in a restroom with flushed facilities at Arrowhead, at the trailhead. … We hope to build next year.”

Tucker shared her perspective as to why the trail appeals to residents.

“Because you feel like you’re Up North when you’re on that trail; you wouldn’t know that you’re in West Bloomfield (because) you’re surrounded by so much nature,” she said. “You can walk your cares away. It’s amazing the wildlife you’ll see along that corridor.”

Tucker’s point of view is similar to Harrison’s.

“I don’t feel like I’m in a city,” Harrison said. “I’m in a city, then I’m not in a city or residential area. That’s what I like about the West Bloomfield Trail.”

Harrison expanded on how the trail appeals to him.

“It’s solitude,” he said. “I’m a busy person. I’ve got a lot going on, maybe like a lot of other people, but when I’m out on the trail, I can kind of forget about it — just breathe in, breathe out and enjoy the day.”

Trails are popular enough to have an annual day dedicated to them nationally. National Trails Day was June 4.

As part of the celebration, West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Superintendent Kelly Hyer was at the West Bloomfield Trail that day, helping to add to the experience for trail users.

“We had over 120 walkers,” she said. “We like to celebrate National Trails Day by doing (a) T-shirt giveaway, but then also, we schedule naturalists to be on the trail. … By having the naturalist right there, if you have a question about anything that you’re observing in nature or you’ve wondered about the water or some kind of animals that you’re seeing, the naturalist can answer any of your questions. So, our naturalist, Lauren Azoury, was on the trail this time, and she was able to talk a lot about the snapping turtles; that’s the big thing she gets asked questions (about), because there’s so many snappers out right now.”

In Tucker’s opinion, having a trail helps strengthen community bonds.

“If there’s one thing that brings everybody together, it’s being outside (and) doing something healthy for yourself and your family,” she said. “Walking or riding your bike doesn’t take a whole bunch of skill. You don’t have to be into a sport. It’s just so easy to go out and take a stroll after dinner, or if that’s your workout — either way.”

Hyer reflected on how the West Bloomfield Trail came to be.

“We’re so fortunate that our leadership had the foresight many years ago to put the money into the old rails-to-trails system, to make it accessible to our residents,” she said. “How unique is that, that we’re part of something greater for this whole state of Michigan?”

Hyer believes that what the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission offers is significant enough to attract people to the township.

“Our residents love being outdoors,” she said. “They love being active, and the fact that you combine the two into this very active trail is pretty cool — very unique, and I think it’s if you talk to people, why they chose to bring their families to West Bloomfield. People say, ‘Well, the school district.’ But the second thing, oftentimes, is people are saying the trails — trails and our parks.”

For all of the fun that the West Bloomfield Trail offers users, Tucker also wants to make sure it’s safe.

She issued a reminder to residents that bikes should always yield to walkers, especially at crossings. Tucker also wants to assure that bikers don’t go too fast.

Extra safety measures may be on the way.

“We also are putting in, hopefully, end of this year, beginning of next — HAWK lights,” Tucker said. “One is in Orchard Lake and the other is in West Bloomfield — two more HAWK light crossings to make sure that people can navigate (the) trail a little bit more safely.”

Tucker explained what a high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon is.

“Basically, a blinking light that helps people cross the trail when there’s traffic,” she said. “We’re partnering with (the) Oakland County Road Commission to help us put these in. … It’s basically a safety measure to get people across the road where the trail crosses Orchard Lake Road.”

Tucker said she feels “blessed” to be in her role with the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission.

“This community, even though most people would think we were very urban, it really does feel like, when you’re in the middle of the nature preserve, you feel like you’re Up North — the emphasis on nature. My background is conservation, so it’s really close and near and dear to my heart. So I honestly just love it.”