This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.
This year promises to be an exciting time for Washtenaw County’s Border-to-Border Trail (B2B Trail), which has been expanding over the past few years at an impressive pace.
The B2B Trail is a non-motorized pathway that will eventually stretch across Washtenaw County to the bordering counties of Wayne and Livingston. It's an ambitious project that began gathering steam in the late '90s and seeks to connect cities, parks, and other destinations into a nearly seamless trail system. It was incorporated into the statewide Iron Belle Trail in 2015.
This year the county is slated to begin construction on three new projects that will add 4.3 miles to the B2B Trail. The first will
"In the trail world, we're going at warp speed. These things tend to take a long time to build."
involve connecting 4.6 miles of recently completed trail south from Werkner Road to Timbertown and Veterans Park in Chelsea with a 1.6-mile new trail, completing that connection. There are also plans in the area between Dexter and Chelsea to construct about 1.5 miles of new trail between Dancer and Wylie Roads, roughly following the route of an old inter-urban rail corridor.
Finally, in Scio Township, the county will extend the trail from Zeeb Road and Huron River Drive by 1.2 miles to connect to Delhi Metropark. That project will link together all three Metroparks within Washtenaw County along the B2B Trail. It will also complete more than half of the trail connection between Dexter and Ann Arbor.
In addition to the county's Parks and Recreation Commission, these new upgrades are being supported by a variety of different partner organizations, including the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative
(HWPI), Washtenaw County Road Commission, Huron Clinton Metroparks, City of Chelsea, and the Michigan Department of Transportation.
The county also hopes to have a dedicated B2B trail website up and running before the active trail season starts up this year.
The B2B Trail is a multi-agency project, initially conceived as a 35-mile route called the Huron River Greenway that would link Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and Dexter. In recent years, that vision has grown to include 20 additional miles of county trailways that will help bring together Dexter, Chelsea, Stockbridge, the Lakelands Trail, and Pinckney into a loop known as the Huron Waterloo Pathway.
Since 2018, the trail has grown at a rate of about one mile a year. So far, 33 miles of B2B pathway have already been constructed, and with the addition of this year's 4.3 miles the entire trail will be roughly two-thirds complete.
Peter Sanderson, principal park planner for Washtenaw County’s Parks and Recreation Commission, is delighted with the recent progress.
"It's definitely exciting," he says. "In the trail world, we're going at warp speed. These things tend to take a long time to build. And I think the reason why we're able to go so quickly now is because there's been so much groundwork laid over the last 20 years.”
Two other factors have also contributed to the recent activity surge. Over the last few years, the county has formed a public-private partnership with HWPI, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding Michigan’s trailways. Working together, they've incorporated the Huron Waterloo Pathway into the B2B Trail.
In 2020, county voters also approved a roads and non-motorized millage that’s expected to bring in $8.9 million a year
from Map of the B2B Trail.
2021 to 2024. Roughly 20% of those funds will be going towards parks and recreation, with the expansion of the B2B being a top priority.
This past year has been a particularly productive time for the trail. Working with Lyndon Township, the county built its first B2B trailhead, which features a 50-car parking lot and other amenities, near the intersection of North Territorial Road and M-52. In partnership with HWPI, it also constructed a new non-motorized crossing tunnel under M-52 in Chelsea, primarily funded by the nonprofit.
Several new trail segments were added too, including 2.1 miles from the Green Lake Campground to North Territorial Road near Chelsea, 1.1 miles (featuring two new bridges) from Dexter-Huron Metropark
to Zeeb Road near Dexter, 0.8 miles at Delhi Metropark
along the Huron River, and two sections totaling 0.36 miles linking North Hydro Park to local neighborhoods, Grove Road, and Rawsonville Elementary School near the Wayne County border.
Beyond that, 0.25 miles of aging trail was reconstructed along the Huron River at Frog Island Park in Ypsilanti and 0.45 miles of an old, narrow sidewalk was replaced and widened with an eight- to 10-foot path on a Grove Road/Water Street segment of the trail in Ann Arbor.
More recently, the Washtenaw County Road Commission installed pedestrian signals at the red iron bridge in Delhi Metropark. The city of Ypsilanti is also in the process of installing new lighting for the trail at Frog Island Park.
To learn more about the B2B Trail's route, check out the Washtenaw County Parks interactive park viewer.