Trail Plans Promise Car-Free Connection From Lansing to Mason

Imagine the year is 2013, and you just moved into your new condominium at Aspen Lakes Estates in Holt, just south of Lansing.

It’s June, the sun is out, and it is a great day for a bike ride to Michigan State University.

You could undertake the somewhat treacherous but doable trek up nearby College Road north to the campus. Or, thanks to new multi-use trail development in Mid-Michigan, you can hop on your bike and pick up the newly expanded bike trail right near your front door, and start heading north towards East Lansing.

Your route goes across Willoughby Road along Sycamore Creek and past the Hope Soccer Fields Complex where the trail joins the Aurelius Road bike lane at Jolly Road. Your trip continues north, passing near scenic Hawk Island County Park and going all the way to Fenner Nature Center and Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, where it joins up with what we know in 2008 as the Lansing River Trail.

From there you can head either west to the Capitol and Old Town, or east to MSU and enjoy all the campus has to offer on a beautiful summer day.

Trail Vision

The extension of the trail to Holt, and eventually even on to Mason, is the vision of Al McFadyen, executive director of the Delhi Township Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

“The plan to make this reality was approved last year, and we are doing the engineering work right now on the first phase,” Al explains. “Eventually the trail will run from Lansing through Delhi down to Mason.”

It’s a vision shared by Jerry Smith, a resident, avid cyclist and the owner of J.D. Applewood’s Smokehouse in Holt. He has a passion about biking, running and seeing the trail become reality, not only in Delhi but throughout the region.

Jerry, who is part of the steering committee effort to create the trail, sees it as a key part of attracting people to Mid-Michigan.

“Unfortunately we are behind other parts of the state in bike trail development,” says Smith. When you look at Southeast and West Michigan, they are way ahead.”

Smith believes people need to realize that trail construction has an overall positive impact on a community’s attractiveness, “both in having people wanting to live here, and for economic development.”

Economic Development

Chuck Grinnell also sees expansion of the bike trail part of a larger web of trails that will eventually connect throughout Ingham County.

Grinnell is a member of the DDA board and chairman of the planning commission. He has owned Holt Shoe Repair for over 28 years, and says the trail adds to the attraction for residential expansion and economic progress in the township. 
“It is going to give people another recreational option, and for those who don’t live in Delhi, an opportunity to visit Holt using the bike path,” he believes. “Everybody is health-conscious now and green-oriented. The timing of the trail is really great.”

Smith, who outlines challenges that still exist in the township to expand bike paths throughout Delhi, points to nearby Portland as a model all communities in Ingham County should look at.

“They have developed a network of trails throughout Portland that connect their bike and walking paths to the schools,” he notes, hoping to see a similar network of trails duplicated in Delhi.

Jerry says he’s optimistic since walk-ability now is part of the master plan for new subdivisions ensuring that bike travel is accommodated—in older more established parts of Delhi this is a problem.

McFadyen concurs with that assessment, and says that much of Delhi’s early development occurred at a time when growth patterns catered to passenger vehicles.

“No thought was given to the pedestrian or cyclist and we have subdivisions developed without sidewalks in Delhi,” he notes. “But over the past 15 years, there has been a major change in residential development patterns.”

Some of this is driven by what Al describes as New Urbanism—a return to the traditional neighborhood design of smaller lots, houses built closer together and the addition of sidewalks, curbs and cutters.

Regional Approach

McFadyen is not new to putting together non motorized trail development and he says it succeeds best when you have a local constituency moving to push it along.

“It’s here and is getting more organized,” Al explains and notes that you never get to build these trails all at once. The township is leading the effort and has money through a federal transportation program: The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program which is administered by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.

“We expect this summer to build the first segment, which is the middle section of the trail, from Willoughby to Holt Roads. The design work is well in place and we should complete this phase this year.”
According to McFadyen, the plan is all part of the regional trail system and this will be a link on the North-South spine. The next phase set for construction in 2010 will build north and connect this first segment up to where the bike trail now comes into Delhi at the corner of Jolly and Aurelius Roads at the Lansing boundary.

“We are doing the preliminary planning of phase two right now and hope to bring that section down the river and along the edge of the Hope Soccer Fields,” he says noting one tricky aspect of the effort will be getting across I-96.

“There’s a way to do it where Sycamore Creek goes under the expressway. We have a pretty large box culvert and we have had discussion with the DEQ to get approvals for some alterations to get the pathway under the culvert,” Al says.

“It will not allow a lot of head room and during high water periods, it would leave the trail unusable. But most of the year bikers, runners and walkers would have no problems getting through.”
From that point McFadyen says the township has easements from the Woodland Lakes complex all the way down to Willoughby. Phase three preliminary plans would take the final segment from Holt Road down to Mason, and Al hopes to see all of it completed in the next five years.

Bill Perry is a free lance writer and former radio news reporter living in Holt 

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Future Delhi Trail

Jerry Smith

Map of future trail expansion

Bikers on a present portion of the river trail

Al McFadyen from the Delhi Township DDA

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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