Officials in Commerce, Walled Lake and Wixom have decided to take another stab at securing Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund (NRTF) grant money to purchase a stretch of railroad traversing those communities, after learning late last year that their second application for a state grant was denied. We’re pleased the communities are serious about the project — which would create a recreational trail linking existing trails to provide a new set of recreational opportunities for area residents — and aren’t letting their lack of success so far get them down. We hope this time around they are able to as concretely as possible identify to state officials where the matching funds will be coming from in order to have the best chance at being awarded a grant.
The Commerce Township Board of Trustees, and Wixom and Walled Lake city councils recently approved resolutions to reapply for NRTF grant money. The communities banded together in 2009 to create the Commerce, Walled Lake and Wixom Trailway Management Council to acquire the over 5 miles of railroad right of way in the three communities and oversee development of the land into a non-motorized recreational trail.
Although West Bloomfield Township has been able to secure a sizable chunk of change for the project, the Commerce, Walled Lake and Wixom Trailway Management Council’s requests for grant funding have been shot down twice, at least once because of lack of local matching funds.
At the same NRTF board meeting late last year where the trailway council’s request for a $2.55 million grant to acquire a stretch of the Michigan Airline Railway was denied, West Bloomfield was recommended to receive $500,000 to turn a 2.5-mile stretch of the same railway into exactly the same thing — a non-motorized recreational path.
Yet the trailways council has been unable to convince NRTF board members that they should recommend council’s project for grant money to the state Legislature, which ultimately has control of the purse strings of the restricted NRTF fund established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource protection and outdoor recreation development.
We hope, given the nature of the project and the fact that West Bloomfield has already received funding for it, that the third time’s the charm for the trailways council. In order to have the best chance at success, officials need to be sure that local matching funds are clearly identified to state officials and that reservations on behalf of at least one business that has argued against the project are quelled, thereby giving what is a worthy effort a clear path to the trust fund board’s recommendation for funding.