BY BENJAMIN GOHS
Boyne City commissioners unanimously renewed support for the proposed non-motorized trail from Boyne City to the US-31 crossroad.
A lengthy discussion from locals, some in favor – some opposed, on the trail resulted from the Tuesday, March 22, regular Boyne City Commission meeting.
“This is very similar to the application we made several years ago,” said Charlevoix County Planner and unofficial trail project spokesman Larry Sullivan.
Sullivan said the new proposal has changed due to a decrease in the availability of state grants – from $500,000 to $300,000 per request; and the first leg of the trail project construction would be shorter than earlier projected.
“Two years ago we were looking at starting the trail at the corner of Court and Robinson and taking the trail to Sumner Road in Bay Township,” he said. “With some of the funding constraints from the DNRE Trust Fund, we’ve elected to stop the trail at the Bay-Evangeline Township line which is basically where the Park of the Pines is at.”
Slated to measure just over three miles, from Boyne City, this first phase of trail is expected to cost nearly $1 million.
In all, $88,000 in matching funds will be needed to complete the first leg of the trail.
Officials from Boyne City have promised $11,072; and Evangeline Township has committed $33,216. Fund-raising efforts from private donors are expected to yield the remaining $44,312 needed.
Construction of the trail is contingent upon all the aforementioned entities’ ability to be awarded said state and federal grants.
A public hearing on the proposed trail had been scheduled for March 23, at the Charlevoix County Board meeting, but was subsequently rescheduled for Tuesday, March 29. Results from the meeting were not available by press time.
During the March 22, meeting, Sullivan addressed concerns that the trail will be costly to local taxpayers.
“The DNRE will have $25 to $30 million to spend on the trails, and it has to be spent on those,” he said. “If they’re not utilized by Charlevoix County, they will be utilized by someone else.”
While the trail received overwhelming support during the meeting, Bay Township resident Bob Taylor had his concerns.
“I don’t have a problem going from the city to the park (Young State Park). I think it’s a good idea,” Taylor said. “When you hit Evangeline Township I have a problem.”
He added, “I’ve been involved with this issue at least two years and they (trail project officials) were supposed to check with those people (residents along the trail route) to see what their views are and they have not done that.”
Boyne City Mayor Chuck Vondra said his major concern is whether the trail would be a liability to the city in the event homeowners along the proposed trail site decide to sue over property rights.
Sullivan said, while Boyne City has chosen to be the applicant on the grant – due to the fact that Charlevoix County is not an Act 51 public entity and cannot apply for this type of funding – Charlevoix County will be responsible for any legal actions related to the trail.
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann said this trail has been in the works for long enough.
“This is a slam-dunk,” he said. “It’s $11,000 of city money and hundreds of thousands of dollars of state money that’s designated for this sort of thing.”
Baumann added, “It’s not like we could cut the budget and save revenue sharing for the city.”
Baumann also pointed out that there have been meetings wherein concerned people from near the trail route had the chance to opine.
“Those people have been very well informed,” he said. “There are more meetings coming up – I don’t think anybody can say we’re trying to hide what’s going on here.”
Informational meetings pertaining to the trail are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. On Thursday, May 26; and both 9 a.m. And 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 at Evangeline Township Hall.
Boyne City Planner Scott McPherson said the Boyne City Planning Commission has supported the plan.
Boyne City Main Street/DDA Director Hugh Conklin also spoke in favor of the trail.
“It’s been a long-term goal to make a connection from downtown to Young State Park,” he said. “It seems like this bike path, with a lot of things we’re doing in the community, adds perfectly into our creation of a sense of place and attracting businesses and entrepreneurs in the local and global marketplace.”
Taylor said building the trail past the state park will be dangerous for cyclists and walkers who pass by the driveways of those who live along the route.
Baumann said he is blown away that anyone would think the trail will be negative for the community – let alone a danger to it.
“This is a big biking community,” he said. “The chamber gets calls from visitors and they want to know where the bike trails are – I don’t like telling people who want to come to my community to go somewhere else because we don’t have what they’re looking for.”
Boyne City Commissioner Ron Grunch said it was polyannaish to think the state would allocate half a million dollars for the trail.
“I hope one of the options is, if we can’t get the money as presented, there will be funding to get the state park connected to the city.”
Vondra said he supports the trail as long as no-one’s property rights are infringed upon.
“I wouldn’t want people infringing on my property,” he said.
Sullivan said 400 to 500 letters detailing the upcoming informational meetings have been sent to those who could be affected by the trail.
The Boyne City Gazette will have results from the March 29 public hearing in the April 6 edition of the paper.