Grant sought for third phase of Boyne City to US-31 non-motorized trail

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Benjamin Gohs

News Editor

County officials are applying for $300,000 in Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant moneys to help cover costs of the third phase of the proposed Boyne City to US-31 non-motorized trail.

A public hearing on phase III was held during the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting on Wednesday March 12, during which time Charlevoix County Parks & Recreation Director Ross Maxwell and engineer Lucas Porath of Northwest Design Group gave commissioners a presentation on the matter.

“This segment of the project is planned to begin at Pincherry Road,” said Porath… “And, it will run on the lake side of the road—separate non-motorized path—and coming towards Horton Bay we will move to bicycle lanes just before we get to Horton Creek.”
According to Maxwell, once you get past Horton Creek, the road shoulder is much wider and paved, and the speed limit decreases in that area to 35 mph.

“When you come up to this portion of the project there will be a crosswalk, and the bike traffic will be two directions, on opposite sides,” Porath said.

Riders coming from Boyne City will be on the 10-foot-wide path before crossing the crosswalk in Horton Bay and riding on the cycling lanes through the hamlet, then once again crossing a crosswalk to get back onto the separated non-motorized trail heading to US-31.

Signage and painted boundaries will mark the portion of the shoulder bike path.

Except for the Horton Bay portion, phase III of the separated non-motorized trail is proposed to be 10 feet long and is expected to connect to phase I of the trail—expected to be completed this summer. The path is to connect at the Bay Township and Evangeline Township line, extend through Horton Bay in Bay Township, cross Horton Creek and end at Pincherry Road for a length of 3.2 miles.

Charlevoix County Commissioner George T. Lasater (R-District 1) asked what kind of road signage would be erected in Horton Bay.

Maxwell and Porath said the plan is to place two warning signs—one in each direction—placed along the roadway. Additionally there will be a six-inch-wide white line dividing automobile traffic from the bike path, and other markings on the path itself to denote it is intended for cyclists.

Lasater also asked if bike racks had been considered to allow cyclists a place to leave their bikes while they sightsee or shop.

The trail officials said it had been considered, and that there is funding in the budget for such an amenity.

Charlevoix County Board Chairman Joel Evans (R-District 4) asked for clarification on why cyclists need to cross the road in Horton Bay.

It was explained that, since the trail ends—for a short distance—on either side of Horton Bay, the only place for cyclists to ride is on the road shoulder. And, by law, cyclists must ride with the flow of traffic; therefore, the cyclists coming from Boyne City must cross the road and ride in a designated bike lane until the trail begins again on the north side of Horton Bay. Cyclists coming from US-31 need not cross the road because they will have a designated bike lane with the flow of traffic heading south toward Boyne City.

Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen asked if the “issue” with phase one of the trail project had been resolved; he was told they are “close.” Apparently there was talk in the community that a couple of the people who had given permission for the county to lay a portion of the trail across their property had reneged.

Christensen said he was concerned that, if a gap were left in the trail—and was unfunded by the state—the county may be liable for funding it. He was told the county would not be liable but Christensen responded that the county is liable for any cost overruns.

The reason the trail cannot be simply placed on the road shoulder elsewhere is that Horton Bay has a lower speed limit and wider road shoulder than elsewhere along Boyne City-Charlevoix Road.

Officials said any gap would not be considered a cost overrun as it is outside the scope of the proposed project. They said the potential issue could be resolved by designating it as a phase IV portion of the project.

“Essentially the cart is on the wrong side of the horse to some degree because now you’re creating precedent,” Christensen said. “Now you’ve got these people who haven’t signed their documents (waivers of right-of-way) yet … and what stops them from saying ‘You put it on the road over here or across the road over there; why can’t you do that for me?’”

Christensen added that, as the plan was originally sold to the public, there were no multiple options—it was either a detached non-motorized pathway or nothing.

“Now, as we get further down the path, alternatives are coming up … but those weren’t being explained in the beginning as opportunities or options for people that were signing up for the program,” Christensen said. “I’m merely asking that question because, by setting that precedent, it may come up further down the path.”

It was noted that the paved shoulders already exist, and the trail is not being rerouted in Horton Bay due to a complaint by a property owner but because there simply is not a usable area on the lake side of the road through Horton Bay.

Charlevoix County Commissioner Rich Gillespie (R-District 5) asked Maxwell and Porath if the letters of consent had yet been received from property owners.

He was told that meetings with property owners who may be affected by the next phase of the trail have yet to be held.

The matter was then opened for public input and questions.

Former Charlevoix County Commissioner Shirlene Tripp spoke during the public hearing—and was the lone public commenter—saying that the trail plans had all been made public from the beginning and that there was no cause for anyone to feel surprised by its construction.

“I think the public, from what I saw at our meetings, the biggest percentage was gung-ho,” she said, adding that you may get one or two naysayers, but that they do not constitute a majority.

The resolution to approve going forward with the grant application was expected to be presented at the board’s March 26 meeting.

The application deadline is April 1.