The path to healthier and greener living in Macomb County is becoming more plentiful.
Construction will be visible over the next few months as Shelby Township, Utica and New Baltimore host phases of an ambitious, multimillion dollar, 70-mile trail loop project.
The overall creation of roughly 25 miles of 10-feet-wide, non-motorized asphalt paths aims to connect and extend the existing 44 miles of trails. The mission is to form a cohesive, consecutive path for recreational use.
Meandering through 16 communities—as far south as Harrison Township and as far north as Armada and the city of Richmond—the loop is meant to attract business, educated workers, raise housing values and decrease obesity. As a side bonus of increased walking, jogging, Rollerblading and cycling, trail users will contribute to greener lifestyles by leaving their pollution-emitting cars behind.
"We're providing amenities to allure businesses and keep well-educated employees here," Macomb County Planning Director John Crumm said.
Already existing non-motorized vehicle trails, such as Metro Beach Trail along Metro Parkway, get rave reviews.
"We've gotten great comments," Crumm said of feedback from trail users. "On the weekend, it looks like a freeway."
The overall initiative, expected to cost roughly $8 million, is to connect the Macomb Orchard Trail in northern communities, such as Armada and Richmond, down to Stony Creek Metro Park Trail across to Metro Beach Trail into Mount Clemens and loop north back to the Macomb Orchard Trail.
Ideally, the trail would also meander along Crocker in Harrison Township, along Gratiot in Mount Clemens and Chesterfield Township, down County Line Road in New Baltimore, on the eastern edge of Lenox Township, and through the city of Richmond. Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township has been considered for a portion of the trail as well, pending security hurdles, according to the county.
In New Baltimore, work is to take place in upcoming weeks on County Line Road, which hundreds of students regularly travel en route to . Mayor Larry Smith said the path, made possible by grant money, is overdue for safety reasons, as there's little room on the side of the road for pedestrians.
In Shelby Township and Utica, asphalt was laid from Dodge Park in Sterling Heights through Heritage Park leading to Auburn St. in Utica. The work will pick up from Auburn, eventually heading north into in Shelby Township, Crumm said.
The New Baltimore and Shelby-Utica projects should wrap in mid-summer, he said.
Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock said there's no immediate plans for the trail to be built in the community because funding is not available.
"Will it happen some time? I don't know when," said Lovelock, adding the trail is in preliminary stages for the township.
Sterling Heights resident Bob Busquaert, who manages in Utica and runs up to 10 miles five to six days a week, said such trails are ideal for athletes.
"I think it's great," he said. "As a runner myself, I always enjoy getting away from the traffic. It's just more of a peace of mind."
According to Macomb County, other communities are in various stages of the trail project.
In Mount Clemens, city and county officials and the Michigan Department of Transportation have agreed to build a six-feet wide split trail on each side of northbound Gratiot. Another 10-foot-wide path is to be built from Shady Side Bridge on Wellington Crescent across to southbound Gratiot. That trail will connect into the lower end of Main Street, where one lane will be formed into bicycle lanes and sidewalks will be redone.
Engineering studies are being done on Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township for a trail that would protect the Lake St. Clair shoreline and uphold security measures. That trail could potentially even stretch over the water. A new section of the trail from Metro Parkway over the Bridgeview Bridge would lead to the military base.
Meanwhile the northern part of the expansive Macomb Orchard Trail from the Richmond area into Armada is expected to be complete with asphalt this summer.