Construction for a new segment of the Border-to-Border Trail (B2B) officially broke ground on Saturday, Feb. 9.
The new segment will extend 1.2 miles from Dexter-Huron Metropark to Zeeb Road. It is part of an overall project to connect the City of Dexter with Ann Arbor via shared pathway. It is fulfilling the mission of Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative to complete the B2B to realize the vision of healthy, active, and connected communities.
Jeff Hardcastle, Chairperson for Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative, spoke on the broad spectrum of collaboration necessary to make this project happen.
“We’re really lucky here in Washtenaw County that the DNR has created a very positive atmosphere for trail development through the Iron Belle Project,” Hardcastle said. “Residents of Washtenaw County have been very supportive for years of the park system and the whole idea of a countywide trail system is only possible because the voters continue to support it with millages. The Metroparks have been very supportive of the trails in all of their park systems. The Watershed Council does a great job as a steward for the Huron River. It’s been amazing to see the collaboration of those four organizations, and I’m not even mentioning the townships and the other municipalities.”
When completed, the B2B will feature 10 pedestrian bridges spanning the Huron River between Ann Arbor and Dexter. The trail is a paved, 10-foot wide, non-motorized pathway intended for people of all ages and abilities. The B2B forms part of the State of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail System, whose vision is to connect the state through non-motorized trails from Belle Isle to Ironwood.
In addition to providing great new pathways, the B2B provides additional access to the Huron River and the Metroparks.
“The Metroparks system was originally intended to be a series of regional parks connected by parkways,” explained Amy McMillan, Huron-Clinton Metroparks director. “Completing this section of trail brings us closer to connecting six Metroparks across Washtenaw and Wayne counties in the Iron Belle Trail system, thereby honoring that original vision.”
This vision is becoming a reality thanks to extensive intergovernmental cooperation and funding at the state and local level, as well as private support from over 1,200 individuals, businesses and foundations, including support from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.
The primary organization driving the B2B Trail system development is Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation. Director Coy Vaughn also spoke of public demand as shown in surveys conducted by the county.
“We recently completed a survey that we do every couple of years on Washtenaw County parks,” he said. “We ask residents what they need as far as recreation and resources. Do they want more golf courses? Do they want water parks? Do they want soccer fields? Every year for the last 20 years the number one thing that came back is they want more trails.”
Vaughn went on to tell the group that trails systems are built into all county parks, but in fact that is not how most people really want to use trails. Residents want trails integrated into their everyday life. People want trails connecting their neighborhoods to communities to schools and to work. That’s the intention of the B2B system. The segment between Dexter and Ann Arbor is viewed as the crown jewel of the connectivity mission.
The new segment extending to Zeeb Road is projected to be finished in September 2019. But it is not the only B2B project this year. Other construction projects are:
- Phase 2 of the Chelsea/Stockbridge Connector which will stretch 2.2 miles from Green Lake campground on M-52 to North Territorial Road.
- Phase 1 of the Dexter-Chelsea Connector beginning at Freer Rd. and heads east for 2.2 miles along Dexter-Chelsea Road.
- The Huron River Corridor which begins at Barton Dam and traverses Barton Nature area for .6 miles.
More projects are in the works for 2020 and beyond. Once completed, the B2B Trail will consist of 70 miles of non-motorized, 10-foot wide, ADA compliant pathway.
MAIN PHOTO: (L-R) Amy McMillan, Huron-Clinton Metroparks; Ron Olsen, DNR; Nikki VanBloem, DNR; Lew Kidder, Huron Waterloo Pathways, Initiative; Janis Bobrin, Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission; David Kirbach, Huron-Clinton Metroparks; Dan Ezekiel, Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission.