Years of dedicated and tenacious work by a west Oakland trailway council appear to have finally paid off, as an effort to further acquire and develop a railroad line as a non-motorized trail is in line to receive nearly $4 million in grant funding to acquire over 5 miles of railway. We now look forward to the trailway council turning its attention toward acquiring additional grant awards, this time to construct the trail.
Earlier this month, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) Board of Trustees recommended to the state Legislature that the Commerce, Walled Lake, and Wixom Trailway Management Council receive $3.75 million to acquire a stretch of railroad that is considered the missing link in a trail that would eventually traverse the county and connect to a corridor spanning the entire Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The 5.33 miles of Michigan Air-Line Railway corridor extending through the trailway council communities would be converted into a recreational trail linked to the Huron Valley and West Bloomfield trail segments.
The trailway council’s efforts to obtain a grant for acquiring the rail corridor have been stymied twice before. A grant application was previously submitted to the NRTF board in 2009, but it was denied due to a lack of matching funds. Another application that addressed that issue was resubmitted in 2010; but, the project wasn’t selected for a grant after a local business protested the effort. Since then the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) has granted Michigan Air-Line Railway’s petition for an abandonment exemption, giving the owners of the railroad until Nov. 30, 2012 to pull up the ties and rails that run across M-5.
Commerce Township Planner Kathleen Jackson, who also serves as administrator of the trailway management council, deserves praise for staying the course and working diligently over the past few years to secure a land acquisition grant. She’s had to trek to Lansing on many occasions to lobby on behalf of the project, and navigate through a sea of paperwork. Yet, we believe all that time and work were worth it, as the NRTF grant will allow the trailway council to take advantage of a rare opportunity to obtain a corridor for a trail that will be part of a grand statewide system.
Unfortunately for Jackson, her reward for that hard work will be getting right back at it. A pedestrian bridge will have to be built over M-5 to connect the proposed trailway segements. You can bet that won’t be an inexpensive endeavor, which makes acquiring one or more additional state grants necessary in order for the project to be completed.
We hope to see the trailway council maintain its diligence and continue to aggressively pursue trail development through acquisition of more state grants and/or gifts.