Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Green Light for Shared-Use Trail at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Construction begins March 2017 on a paved hiking and biking trail connecting the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens with a network of trail systems throughout the area. The trail provides an important non-motorized link from the botanical gardens to Washtenaw County’s Parker Mill Park, with connections to the regional Border-to-Border Trail, the local Gallup Park pathway, and beyond.

The trail also provides a safer travel route that parallels but avoids Dixboro Rd., a busy Washtenaw County artery with a narrow shoulder inadequate for safe biking or walking. As it makes its way to Parker Mill Park, the two-mile path crosses parts of the botanical gardens, Radrick Golf Course, and the grounds of the U-M Adventure Leadership Program. The project is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2017.

The trail (marked in green) connects Matthaei
Botanical Gardens with the Washtenaw County
Border-to-Border trail system (in purple) and to
other trails and destinations locally and beyond.
When finished the new trail will also expand on existing non-motorized connections to University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy Hospitals, University of Michigan Central and North Campuses, Eastern Michigan University and Ypsilanti, Concordia University and Washtenaw County Community College, as well as public transportation to these destinations.

“The Arb and Gardens, the Adventure Leadership Program and Radrick Golf Course are united in valuing the environmental and personal health benefits of being outdoors,” says Karen Sikkenga, associate director of Matthaei-Nichols, “and nonmotorized transportation connections to U-M’s campus are central to Matthaei Botanical Gardens’ strategic goals. Currently more than 140,000 visitors each year carpool, ride a bike, or drive a car to get to Matthaei. The new trail will allow them to leave their cars safely behind.”

Sikkenga says that the idea for the trail came to her as she detoured on her bike through Radrick Golf Course one morning after Dixboro Rd. temporarily closed for repaving in 2013. But the trail concept isn’t new, she adds. “A Dixboro Road trail project had been explored prior to 2005, but it stalled when the various parties couldn’t agree on the details.”

This time, all the parties agreed. Trail construction caps a multi-year collaboration between the University, state and local agencies, businesses, and individuals. The trail travels over land owned by the University of Michigan, which granted an easement for the project. Washtenaw County Parks, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, and Michigan Department of Transportation together provided more than $2,5M for the trail construction. In addition to these grants, over 125 individuals and businesses contributed almost $800K toward the trail.

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