Missing links: Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative seeks to close gaps

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Filling trail and knowledge gaps are two goals the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative pursued Jan. 9 as it shared plans, programs and funding initiatives with the mayor and City Council.

DLGI is a regional group forging non-motorized pathways for the Downriver area. It hopes to help connect 21 Downriver communities in Wayne and Monroe counties with a network of trails and greenways that will feed into regional and statewide systems while enhancing the quality of life locally.

A hiking trail that passes through Wyandotte’s Iron Bell Trail, the longest designated state trail in the nation, was introduced by Tyler Klifman, a planner with Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. The 1,273-mile hiking trail, which encircles the state from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in the western end of the Upper Peninsula, is 69 percent complete, taking advantage of existing routes.

Klifman said SEMCOG’s goal is to find the gaps in the trail and work with communities and groups like DLGI to determine what issues need to be addressed.

Mary Fisher-Bohling of DLGI said with Wyandotte being on the Detroit River, and with Biddle and Jefferson Avenue running through the downtown, it is a major corridor for the Iron Bell and the Downriver Linked Greenways.

“It’s pretty exciting that Wyandotte is kind of at the center of a lot of things that are happening,” Fisher-Bohling said.

She said in 2015 a small grant from the Department of Natural Resources provided the resources to do a gap analysis, and determine where on the hiking path there were no sidewalks, and where paths needed repair. She said less than two of the 25 miles represent gaps.

“Wyandotte does have a small portion of that gap,” Fisher-Bohling said. “What we’d like to see happen with Downriver Linked Greenways is work with you to fill that gap.”

She said the gap is where there currently aren’t any sidewalks on a small portion on the east side of Biddle south of Ecorse Creek, where Ecorse and Wyandotte share a border, near the bridge over Ecorse Creek.

Fisher-Bohling said DLGI will work with SEMCOG to try to get some TAP money from the Transportation Alternatives Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We can hopefully get some funding coming in so that you don’t have to worry about that,” she said to the council.

Fisher-Bohling said DLGI will look and apply for funding to fill the trail gaps, so when people start hiking the Iron Bell Trail they will know what route to follow in Wyandotte, which makes way-finding and branding the trails important.

“As we work to build these trails, it is really important that we promote them, so that people come to your communities,” Fisher-Bohling said. “So that is something that Downriver Linked Greenways has taken on.”

She said they just applied for a Coast Zone Management Grant, which Congress established in 1972 to encourage appropriate development and protection of the country’s coastal and shoreline resources, which they should hear about this summer.

For more information, go to downrivergreenways.org.