New Iron Belle Trail extension will help connect Belleville with Lower Huron Metropark

Huron-Clinton Metroparks is in the final phases of planning a new extension that will help connect an existing portion of the Iron Belle Trail at Lower Huron Metropark with the city of Belleville.

The project is part of a larger effort to complete the state-spanning trail, which will eventually link the city of Ironwood in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with Detroit's Belle Isle via a pair of non-motorized routes. The current 4.1-mile pathway at Lower Huron Metropark already connects to another stretch of the Iron Belle Trail that travels southeast, passing through Oakwoods, Willow, and Lake Erie Metroparks before heading north towards Detroit.

Huron-Clinton Metroparks is just one of several stakeholders working to connect Lower Huron Metropark with the Washtenaw County border in the endeavor to complete that part of the Iron Belle Trail. Other partners in that effort include Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties, Van Buren Township, the city of Belleville, and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

According to Nina Kelly, chief of planning and development for the Metroparks system, the new 0.9-mile extension will be built as two separate segments that will eventually come together.

"We are looking to extend the Iron Belle Trail where our current trail terminates towards the North entrance of Lower Huron at Huron River Drive," Kelly says. "[Then a] second section begins at the park entrance, includes a road crosswalk and push button beacon for non-motorized travel, and continues west [towards Belleville] along Huron River Drive, terminating at the recently reconstructed bridge over the Huron River."

Once these new segments are completed, seven of 13 Metroparks in both Washtenaw and Wayne counties will be connected through non-motorized trails.

Planning of the new extension is being funded by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Iron Belle Trail grant. The Metroparks hired the PEA Group engineering firm to design both sections concurrently, due to the group's expertise with road crossings. 

The safety of non-motorized travelers using the Belleville connector has been a matter of debate in Van Buren Township, where the majority of the extension is being built. These public concerns led to a section of trail being rerouted in 2019. 

PEA Group is currently revising its design of the extension segments following input from Huron-Clinton Metroparks. Buildout for the segment on the grounds of Lower Huron Metropark is estimated to cost $716,766. The Huron-Clinton Metroparks Authority will cover roughly $80,000 of that price tag, while the rest will be funded by grants from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund. Bidding for construction on this first section is expected to begin this fall. 

Project partners are still seeking funding for the other section of the trail running through Van Buren Township.
Map of planned LHM trail extension
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Read more articles by David Sands.