Bridge to Bay Trail adds new connection on Clinton Avenue in St. Clair

A new path along Clinton Avenue in St. Clair is set to be completed this spring, marking another step forward in the Bridge to Bay Trail initiative.

The Clinton Avenue path, stretching from Carney Drive to M-29 near the river, spans one mile in length and measures 10 feet wide for most of the trail. With a price tag exceeding $1 million, the project received support from several organizations locally and across the state including the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and a $400,000 grant from the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, showcasing a community-driven effort to enhance local infrastructure.

A resident riding along the Bridge to Bay trail with a freighter out on the lake.Trails are known for their ability to support local economies. Looking at all the gaps in the trails, city leaders in St. Clair say they felt Clinton Avenue was vital to the overall trail as it would bring people into the downtown area.

Trice Hawkins, Recreation Director for the City of St. Clair, emphasizes the importance of the economic potential of this connection to the trail envisioning increased foot traffic and patronage to downtown businesses.

“The trail helps make St. Clair more of a destination,” Hawkins says. “It’s just one more connection to downtown.”

Aerial view of the new path running along Clinton Avenue in St. Clair.

The Bridge to Bay Trail, conceived two decades ago to connect communities across St. Clair County, serves as a vital link for both residents and tourists alike. Spanning from New Baltimore to Lakeport State Park, sections of the planned 50-mile-long trail pass through several waterfront communities such as Harsens Island, Marine City, and Port Huron.

Sheri Faust, President of Friends of the St. Clair River, says the Bridge to Bay Trail aims to connect people from the northern and southern ends of St. Clair County. Before then, there was no trail system to connect all of the shoreline communities she says.

Sheri Faust, President of Friends of the St. Clair River.On the trail, people can walk or ride their bikes while visiting parks and beaches along the way. Throughout the trail, there are different levels of pathways that are accessible year-round from family-friendly trails where the paths are not on main roads to paths for experienced bicyclists who share the road with cars. Even in the winter, the trail can be great for bird or freighter watching.

Along the way, there are amenities at every point across all the waterfront communities. The amenities include drinking fountains, restrooms, bike repair stations, food, and camping.

Although much progress has been made, the Bridge to Bay Trail is not yet complete and many connection trails have not been paved to connect to the main path.

“This is going to be at least a decade-long initiative worth well over $12 million,” Faust says.

The Bridge to Bay Trail is divided into three phases with phase one currently underway. In addition to the Clinton Avenue path, phase one of the effort also focuses on other projects in Marysville and Port Huron which includes the recent completion of the pedestrian bridge over the Black River Canal.

Phase two of the project focuses on development in Algonac, Fort Gratiot Township, and Marine City with phase three focusing on St. Clair and Port Huron. The City of St. Clair will also be part of another trail initiative called the Lake to Lake Trail which goes from South Haven to Port Huron.

As phase two of the Bridge to Bay Trail unfolds, and with plans for additional trail initiatives like the Lake to Lake Trail, the vision of a connected, vibrant network of trails across Michigan edges closer to reality.

In the future, Marine City’s Bridge to Bay Trail loop will bring people into the community through the Downtown Loop, Faust says. It will be connected to their new marine which will bring more recreational opportunities. 

Jeanne Burris Johnson, owner of New Century Art Gallery in Marine City, Michigan.Jeanne Burris Johnson, owner of New Century Art Gallery in Marine City, says the trail will be great for attracting visitors and supporting local businesses.

“It gives people the opportunity to do something great in this area so we’re all for it,” Burris Johnson says. “We love it.”

It’s not only good from an economic standpoint but also from a health perspective for our community, Faust says. Trails get people outside and encourage mobility which provides a healthier community, including a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases. In a study done by the American Heart Association, for every dollar invested in building trails, $3 was saved in medical costs.

Adding signage and wayfinding is another big part of the project, Faust says.

“If you’re navigating the trail currently it’s difficult to know where to go or where to access the community's beaches, restaurants, or parks so these new paths will have the key to finding your way through signage,” she says.

The life cycle of a trail is 20 years and some of the trails are at the time of needed maintenance, Faust says. Trail maintenance including repairs or replacing a trail entirely is part of an ongoing effort to keep the paths safe and effective. In East China Township, they were funded to do a trail replacement by a $101,900 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Trail Maintenance Fund through the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Gratiot Avenue in Port Huron is also getting some maintenance on its path and will add bike lanes.

Trails take patience and perseverance, Faust says. They take a very long time to plan and create before people can reap the benefits of the project. For the Clinton Avenue addition, it took four years before there was anything on the ground.

“We really want people to support trails in their community,” Faust says, adding that community members might have uncertainties about building trails but it’s important to embrace trail culture because they are a great asset to communities. 

To learn more or stay up-to-date with developments on the Bridge to Bay Trail initiative, visit
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Read more articles by Genevieve Fox.

Genevieve Fox is an award-winning journalist from Detroit. Since graduating from Michigan State University, she has built a solid background in environmental reporting and previous experience in radio broadcasting and photography at Great Lakes Echo and WKAR. She is now a freelance writer and a project editor for Metromode's series Macomb Live, Work, Play and Parks and Trails. When not working, she loves spending time outdoors and reading a good book. More by Genevieve Fox.