A groundbreaking ceremony at Ypsilanti's Frog Island Park on June 22 launched one of several improvements planned over the next two years for Washtenaw County's Border to Border (B2B) Trail in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.
The B2B Trail has been in development for over 20 years, with the ultimate goal of providing a pathway that connects with Wayne County at the east end and Livingston or Jackson counties at the west end.
The project that broke ground on the 22nd will connect Forest Avenue to Cross Street through Frog Island Park and improve the existing trail along the Huron River in that area. Roy Townsend, project manager for the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission (WCPARC), says both ends of that segment are "missing pieces."
"Some of the trail has been in place for 40-plus years now, but it's narrow and in poor condition," Townsend says. "We're rebuilding it and making it wider, smoother, and safer."
Construction of another segment in the city of Ypsi will kick off in July and run through August, starting at the Riverview Park trail and running south to I-94 on the west side of Grove Street.
Work is also taking place in Ypsilanti Township. Last year, a project that wrapped up in October extended a half-mile section of the path on Grove Street to Rawsonville Elementary at Snow Road, improving safety for children who walk to school.
Next, starting in July, work on the B2B will connect the trailhead at North Hydro Park off of Bridge Road to the B2B trail along Grove Street. Townsend says that segment is intended to connect with the Lower Huron Metropark trail in Belleville sometime in the next three to five years.
"It's exciting to fill all these little gaps," Townsend says. "When they were first building these paths, some of the criticism is that these little segments didn't go anywhere. But tying the whole thing together doesn't happen overnight."
WCPARC's work has been aided in recent years by a partnership with the nonprofit Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative (HWPI).
HWPI executive director Susan Faulkner calls the partnership "tremendous."
"HWPI has made its focus providing private sector funding to complement and provide a match for public sector funding," she says.
Previously, the county could only afford to add about a mile of trail per year, but that progress has been accelerated thanks to a road millage passed several years ago and funds from HWPI. Multiple miles of trail per year have been added throughout the county since 2018.
"When we look at the B2B trail as a community resource, it provides access to physical activity, contributes to mental health and wellbeing, and provides an opportunity for commuting," Faulkner says.
She notes that the projects aim to remove as many barriers to access as possible. The trail is accessible to people of many different abilities and, assuming a user can find a free parking spot or walk to a trail head, there's no cost to use it.
Expansion of the trail system comes at an important time in the state's history, Faulkner says. The national organization Rails to Trails estimates that trail usage went up 200% during the COVID-19 crisis, she says.
"It's been shown what an essential community resource it is and why these trails matter so much to our community," she says.
More information about the B2B project and maps for users are available here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative.