West Michigan’s North Bank Trail receives new push toward completion with millage vote, fundraisers

What’s happening: Forging public-private partnerships. Crafting millages to put in front of voters. Applying for grants, grants, and more grants. There’s a lot that goes into building a miles-long non-motorized pathway that opens up new recreational and tourism-generating opportunities for Michigan communities. It’s a years-long, and often decades-long, process. And it’s happening right now in western Michigan, where several communities are working together while finding their own ways to complete the North Bank Trail.

What it is: As it’s envisioned, the North Bank Trail will be an 18 mile-long non-motorized pathway that connects Spring Lake Village to the Fred Meijer Pioneer Trail, from west to east. In linking up to already existing trails, a completed North Bank Trail would connect the Grand Rapids area to the beaches of West Michigan, all the while passing through several towns and villages along the way. It will largely follow the former Grand Trunk Railroad line.

Where it’s at: Phase One of the North Bank Trail was completed in 2011, and runs 3.3 miles from N. Fruitport Rd. to 130th Ave. in Spring Lake Township. A second phase was completed in 2020, stretching another three miles from the original terminus at 130th Ave. to the new eastern terminus in Nunica. While work on isolated stretches in Crockery Township and Coopersville have either begun or have already been completed, approximately 12.5 miles of future pathway remain.

How it’s getting done: In Crockery Township, residents will vote on whether or not to renew the Township’s Bike Path Millage this Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. Much is riding on the millage’s passing, as it will generate approximately $100,000 each year for the next ten years for the maintenance of the current trail. It could also provide the matching funds necessary to secure another grant to further extend the trail from 112th Ave. to 96th Ave. Touted as one of the trail’s most scenic routes, that extension would cross over two historic railroad trestles traversing Crockery Creek.

What remains: As for the bulk of the remaining 12.5 miles, the communities of Coopersville, Polkton, and Wright are working together to generate the estimated $6.5 million necessary to complete the project. A series of fundraisers and grant applications are currently being pursued, in an effort recently reinvigorated by those local governments as well as the Coopersville Downtown Development Authority, the Rotary Club of Coopersville, and the Friends of the North Bank Trail nonprofit organization.

“In Coopersville, Polkton, Wright, we’re kind of working on our own agenda,” says Kate Terpstra, Marketing & Economic Development Administrator for the Coopersville DDA. “We will not be doing a millage for it — it's too big of an area and too difficult for each municipality to take on its own. So we are working with the Coopersville Rotary — they're our fiduciary partner and hold our funds and help us fundraise — and I’ve been reaching out to different state departments like the DNR and DOT, because this trail does connect to state trails.”

The next fundraiser for the North Bank Trail is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Rotary Interclub Banquet, to be held at the West Michigan Plumbers, Fitters & Service Trades Local Union #174.

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