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Township approves Iron Belle connector

Shelby Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved a plan to connect River Bends Park and the Macomb Orchard Trail


July 24, 2020

Township approves Iron Belle connector, links River Bends Park, Macomb Orchard Trail At its July 21 meeting, the Shelby Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved a plan to connect River Bends Park and the Macomb Orchard Trail to cement the community on the statewide Iron Belle multi-use trail system.

The Board approved a plan presented by Trustee Lisa Casali to use existing sidewalks and trails to act as a local connector for the statewide trail that will run more than 2,000 miles from Belle Isle in Detroit to the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula. The local connector cost is $160,000, which is 1.33 percent of the original price tag to connect the trail routes through River Bends Park.

“The original trail we decided on years ago was planned in 14 segments with three segments complete with the remaining sections costing about $12 million,” Casali said.

“At the beginning of last year, our team of engineer Carol Thurber, Parks, Recreation, and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood, Parks, Recreation, and Maintenance Business Manager Cindy Martel, and myself started on our next portion of the trail, but the challenges and costs were too immense.

“We came up with this alternate plan, which we call our Shelby Township local connector,” Casali added. “We exit River Bends Park, head east on 22 Mile Road, north on Shelby and Mound roads and west on 24 Mile Road to the Macomb Orchard Trail to the Clinton River Trail and then that goes north up to the Upper Peninsula.”

While the township is funding the local connector with a combination of capital improvement funds and funds for its sidewalk budget, Macomb County is working on the major spine with a planned path from River Bends Park, north up Ryan Road and west on 23 Mile Road.

“The county suggested rerouting up out of River Bends Park, up Ryan Road over to 23 Mile Road connecting to Gene Shepherd Park on to the Clinton River Trail,” Casali said. “At that point, we decided that the county will continue with the major spine of the Iron Belle Trail with an estimated timeframe of five to eight years and a cost of $10-12 million.”

In addition to staking out a local route on the Iron Belle Trail, the local connector directly opens up River Bends Park, Gene Shepherd Park, the Macomb Orchard Trail and Stony Creek Metropark to more township residents.

“With the local connector, we can complete, in one year at a cost much less to the township, a connection to River Bends Park to the Clinton River Trail and connect many residents to the Macomb Orchard Trail to Gene Shepherd Park right from their homes,” Casali said.

“Now, residents don’t need a bike rack on their car and drive to a parking lot to access our parks; 4,500 homes and 15,000 residents can now access our new local connector to River Bends Park, and 7,350 homes and 24,300 residents will have access to the Iron Belle Trail from their home.”

The township’s $160,000 investment in the local connector will cover engineering, sidewalk improvements, wayfinding signage, striping to mark pedestrian crosswalks and traffic control.

“We’re coordinating with the county with improvements to our signals, and there are a couple of crosswalks that will need a push-button signal or countdown and striping on our crosswalks, so we are working the county on costs for those items,” Casali said. “The township is going to absorb costs for signage and crossings. We’re estimating our costs will be $160,000. We can get this done in a year, and we can get started as soon as we get approval.”

The local connector for the Iron Belle Trail will also connect the township south through River Bends Park to downtown Utica, east to Lake St. Clair Metropark, west along the Clinton River Trail to downtown Rochester and north to the Paint Creek Trail and downtown Lake Orion.

“We’ve been talking about this for years and years, and your group got it done,” Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. “The good news is the $10-12 million coming from outside sources, and you can get our local part done for $160,000.”

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