For the first time, Washtenaw County's Border to Border Trail
(B2B) will connect to a trail system outside of the county. Groundbreaking began Sept. 27 on Van Buren Township’s Section B of the statewide Iron Belle Trail
. This 1.25-mile section of trail will connect the easternmost terminus of the B2B, at Rawsonville Road in Ypsilanti, to the Van Buren Park trail system in Wayne County. This is the first project in what will ultimately be seven miles of trail.
"Once all sections are complete, we will connect people to parks including Van Buren Park, Pickle Park, Victory Park in Belleville, Riggs Park, and also Lower Huron Metropark," said Van Buren Township Supervisor Kevin McNamara at the groundbreaking event.
In addition to connecting the B2B to Wayne County, the project also expands the Iron Belle Trail. Currently 71% complete at 791 miles, the Iron Belle is a paved bike path that will eventually connect Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.
Funding for the project came from the DTE Energy Foundation
and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
Parks and Trails Fund. Van Buren Township and Wayne County also received consultation help from the two primary partners behind the B2B: the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission
(WCPARC) and the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative
"This is a big deal, because it’s our first real regional connection of this project, and it’s working to close the gap to the east," said WCPARC Project Manager Peter Sanderson. "This is a really good example of how we can do regional collaboration between governmental units and with a nonprofit partner [HWPI] who’s been able to help more directly on the other side of the municipal boundary."
Since partnering with WCPARC in 2017, HWPI has raised more than $14 million for B2B construction. The organization has also been instrumental in coordinating between individuals, businesses, civic groups, and government entities.
"We’ve stuck our noses in a little bit on other projects, and specifically ones that connect to the B2B Trail," said HWPI Executive Director Kiff Hamp. "We’re very excited about getting this Van Buren piece because that goes into Lower Huron [Metropark], which you could connect down to Lake Erie."
Looking forward, HWPI is considering ways to link the B2B to the 34.8-mile Mike Levine Lakelands Trail at its Stockbridge and Pinckney trailheads. This would create a loop of around 31 miles. The completion of the 55-mile B2B and these three expansion projects will create access to more than 100 continuous miles of non-motorized trails.
Brooke Marshall is a freelance writer and recent transplant to Belleville. She first visited Ann Arbor on a cross-country bicycle tour; you can read that story (and more!) in her first book, "Lucky."
Photo courtesy of Van Buren Township Parks and Recreation.