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Groups to Mark Completion of 30-mile Greenway

posted Oct 8, 2013, 5:13 PM by Greenways Webmaster   [ updated Oct 10, 2013, 12:58 PM ]

HURON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Events this week will mark the completion of a 30-mile greenway for bicycle riders, walkers and runners in southeast Michigan that expands area recreation offerings.

A ribbon-cutting is planned for Wednesday on the Flat Rock-Oakwood Connector Trail at Oakwoods Metropark in Wayne County's Huron Township, the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative said. On Saturday, a community celebration takes places at Huroc Park in Flat Rock.

"The public is invited to walk, run or bike down the new segment of the trail," organizers said in a statement about Saturday's event. A second ribbon-cutting takes place at the community celebration, and a nature scavenger hunt and other events are planned.

The mile-long trail is the final piece of a 30-mile east-west greenway connecting Oakwoods Metropark and Lake Erie Metropark.

Funding for the about $684,000 project was provided through federal money and a local match from the state Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources. Work included the path between Oakwoods Metropark and Huroc Park.

The City of Flat Rock and others were involved in the effort. Construction of the overall trail began in 2001 with help from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan's GreenWays Initiative and others. Construction on the final mile began in May.

Below are a few links to articles announcing the event:

Groundbreaking Event May 6, 2013

posted May 9, 2013, 7:51 AM by Unknown user   [ updated May 9, 2013, 8:42 AM ]

About 75 Flat Rock officials, organization representatives and community members gathered Monday at Huroc Park to celebrate the groundbreaking for the final one-mile stretch of bike path being constructed by the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative. The groundbreaking commemorates the final part of the 24-mile trail connecting Belleville Lake to the shores of Lake Erie through the Oakwoods Metropark. Co-chair Anita Twardesky emceed the hourlong event.

Introducing guest speakers at Monday’s groundbreaking event at Huroc Park is Anita Twardesky, co-chair of the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, one of the organizations responsible for the creation of the trail system. The one-mile trail being constructed this spring and summer is the final piece of a 24-mile pathway that connects Belleville Lake to the shores of Lake Erie. “Our bridge to nowhere will now go somewhere,” Twardesky said.

Flat Rock Mayor Jonathan Dropiewski speaks Monday at a groundbreaking project at Huroc Park. Dropiewski said he and the community are looking forward to finishing the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, which has been in the works for more than 10 years. He said the park and its trail system are “an important part of the Downriver community.”

Breaking ground at Huroc Park on Monday are Mary Bohling (left), Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative co-chair; Tom Woiwode, director of the community foundation for southeastern Michigan’s Greenways Initiative; Mark Cochran, a representative for the office of U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-12th District); Mayor Jonathan Dropiewski; Rodney Stokes, special adviser for city placemaking to Gov. Rick Snyder; John McCulloch, director of Huron-Clinton Metroparks; and Anita Twardesky, Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative co-chair. The groundbreaking commemorates the final stretch of the 24-mile trail connecting Belleville Lake to the shores of Lake Erie. Photo by Laura Zoochi

A map displaying the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative trail system was on display for attendees Monday. About 75 people were at Huroc Park for the groundbreaking of the final stretch of the east-west connector trail. Partnering with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Transportation and other groups, the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative strives to connect southeastern Michigan for non-motorized use.

Photos and text courtesy of The News-Herald

30-mile greenway moves closer to completion

posted May 6, 2013, 5:18 AM by Roy Bohling   [ updated May 7, 2013, 5:22 AM by Greenways Webmaster ]

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (AP) - A 30-mile greenway for bicycle riders, walkers and runners in southeast Michigan is moving closer to completion.
The Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative says a ribbon-cutting is planned for late September on the Flat Rock-Oakwood Connector Trail.
The mile-long trail is the final piece of a 30-mile east-west greenway connecting Oakwoods Metropark and Lake Erie Metropark. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Flat Rock-Oakwood Connector Trail took place Monday afternoon at Huroc Park in Flat Rock.
“The completion of this trail after more than a decade of hard work will now represent the largest greenways link of two Metroparks in the region,” Anita Twardesky, co-chairwoman of the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, said in a statement.
Funding for the about $684,000 project is being provided through federal money and a local match from the state Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources. Work includes construction of the path, from Huroc Park in Flat Rock to Oakwoods Metropark. The City of Flat Rock and others are involved in the effort.
The creation of the overall trail has been more than 10 years in the making. Construction began in 2001 with help from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan's GreenWays Initiative and others. Since then, about 29 miles of trail have been completed.

Wyandotte Businesswoman Honored as 'True Champion of Downriver'

posted Jan 11, 2013, 5:24 AM by Greenways Webmaster

Anita Twardesky, the marketing and community outreach manager at Wyandotte's Riverside Kayak Connection, was honored Thursday by the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber.

Twardesky, who also co-manages the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, received the chamber's Image Award at the group's annual member tribute held at the Downriver Italian-American Hall in Wyandotte. 

The Image Award "recognizes an individual or a business that actively promotes a positive image of Southern Wayne County to both the internal and external public."

"Anita is a true champion of Downriver wherever she goes, speaking at conference across the state and nation and working to bring conferences and meetings to experience the natural and cultural assets of Downriver," the chamber said in a written statement.

Living the wildlife: Patch of shoreline becomes 'crown jewel' of refuge

posted Aug 22, 2012, 6:55 AM by Unknown user   [ updated May 9, 2013, 8:58 AM ]

By Gary Anglebrandt

The downriver shoreline of the Detroit River contains 5,763 acres of federally protected wetlands and river banks under the name of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

But if it weren't for a place called Humbug Marsh, supporters say the area would have been just like any other housing development in Southeast Michigan. 

A group called Made in Detroit Inc. proposed in the 1990s to build a mixed-use development that would have included 300 homes and a golf course on land it bought in Trenton and Gibraltar. The plan failed when it ran afoul of environmentalists, federal agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The problem was the 410-acre area called Humbug Marsh, the last existing mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. side of the Detroit River after decades of industrial and commercial activity had absorbed the waterfront. Humbug Marsh mainly is a shallow area between Humbug Island and shoreline in Trenton and Gibraltar. 

The Made in Detroit project included plans to put homes on Humbug Island and build a bridge to the island, while turning the marsh into a marina. The development's demise eventually allowed the land to be added to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, which President George W. Bush signed into existence in 2001, following a push by philanthropist-conservationist Peter Stroh, U.S. Rep. John Dingell and Herb Gray, who was Canada's deputy prime minister at the time. The refuge falls under the care of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It began with about 300 acres in Wyandotte and now covers shoreline, marshes and islands from southwest Detroit to Ohio. The designation protects habitats for 300 species of birds and 117 species of fish, according to the refuge. The area also includes oak trees that "were alive when Cadillac founded Detroit," Hartig said. 

Work is nearing completion on the Refuge Gateway, a visitor center being built on 44 acres in Trenton near Humbug Marsh. The land once was home to a Chrysler paint factory and offers a south-looking view that can reach to Lake Erie in clear weather. Shoreline restoration work was completed last year. The refuge obtained $1.4 million in federal funding for the restoration of the gateway land. Cleanup efforts are expected to be finished this fall.

The gateway is part of the Detroit River Heritage Water Trail and will include a gift shop, bookstore, classrooms, an observation deck, a kayak launch and resting areas. Michigan Sea Grant, a conservation program run by University of Michigan and Michigan State University, plans to put a ship at the gateway to be used as a "living laboratory" for the study of the local ecosystem. Construction of a $2.8 million boat dock and fishing pier is slated to begin next year.

A capital campaign is under way to raise $10 million and complete all of the construction work in 2014. 

Lending a hand to the efforts over the years has been the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition, which helped bring fundraisers together and supported the idea of a larger concept of a wildlife refuge, said Susan Phillips of the MAC.

"Additionally, MAC has lent support to an array of other refuge projects ranging from building an environmental education shelter, observation decks, and boardwalks, to restoring natural and wetland habitats, Brownfield cleanup, and designing a fishing pier/boat dock," she said. 

Protected natural land doesn't generate property tax revenue for local communities, but that's offset by the quality-of-life benefits the land brings, said Paula Boase, director of economic development at the Downriver Community Conference, a development organization that works on behalf of downriver communities. 

"Putting up a factory is not the only thing," she said. "You've got to have quality of life for workers, and this does that." 

Given the scarcity of places to put in a kayak or simply visit the Detroit River up close, the Humbug Marsh visitor center will be a regional destination point that also attracts people to move to the area, she said. 

"It would be a draw for people to look at living here -- we're only 15 minutes from downtown Detroit," Boase said. 

Tiffany VanDeHey, co-owner of Riverside Kayak Connection LLC in Wyandotte, runs kayak tours of the river, including one that includes Humbug Marsh. The Gateway would give kayakers a new place to put in, eliminating the need for an upstream return trip to Wyandotte that less ambitious kayakers prefer to avoid, she said.

At least a quarter of customers come from more than an hour's drive away, she said. Many actually come because they like the industrial view the area offers -- a tour of the lower Rouge River is one of the most popular paddles the business runs. 

But the undeveloped marsh clearly is a benefit. 

"With the whole 'staycation' thing now, people want to go to an area where they get an up-north feel without having to go up north," VanDeHey said. 

National expert says city’s walkability good, bad and needs redesign

posted Aug 20, 2012, 10:31 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 11, 2013, 5:26 AM by Greenways Webmaster ]

Walkability expert aseeses Trenton, Michigan

From: The News Herald, "The Voice of Downriver" 

By: Staff Writer J. Patrick Pepper

TRENTON — Pedestrian-friendliness was the center of inquiry Thursday, when two of the city’s key commercial districts were audited for how accommodating they are to walkers.

The audits, which were essentially walking tours, focused on the areas around City Hall and Elizabeth Park and the heavily trafficked West Road corridor.

City officials and representative from regional and state transportation agencies were among those led by Dan Burden, a national expert on walkable communities.

With the Washington state-based Walkable and Livable Communities Institute as his launching pad, Burden has spent more than 25 years traveling the country evangelizing about the benefits of pedestrian-friendly design in public spaces.

“It is those towns that create the best places, that create the most livability, that create the most walkability that are going to attract the greatest number of new jobs,” Burden said. “That’s what we’ve learned all over the country.”

In Trenton, he saw a mix of good, bad and “brutal.”

Burden praised the downtown district for its eclectic mix of buildings, relatively short blocks and differences in the way the streets are laid out.

“It’s got really good, what we call, bones — the way the streets are laid out, reasonably short blocks, some really nice buildings all complementing one another,” he said.

As for what could stand some improvement, Burden said more greenery, lower speed limits and more things to define the streets, sidewalks and parking areas would go a long way toward making the space more inviting.

Along West Road, Burden said he saw something he’s never seen in the roughly 3,500 communities he’s worked in.

“What really struck my eye, and not in a pleasing way, is not only do you have the 48 feet of asphalt out in the middle (the street), but then you have another 30 feet on either side of you; so a total of 108 feet of just pure, brutal concrete and asphalt,” Burden said. “I’ve never seen that.”

The noise level, led by the sonorous hum of diesel engines and the clatter of caravans of gravel haulers also earned a failing grade. 

After taking stock of the two areas, Burden gave a presentation to city officials outlining some options. Some of them were big-picture ideas dealing with infrastructure, like putting roundabouts at West Road intersections or doing what he called “road diets,” a process of narrowing the streets.

In either instance, the bottom line is getting cars to move slower and increasing the distance and definition between roadway and sidewalks.

“The key in all of this is getting traffic to move slower,” Burden said.

More immediately pursuable options included putting in planting beds and benches along sidewalks. adding more trash receptacles and re-painting storefronts.

Mary Bohling of Michigan Sea Grant, which coordinates the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, said that while some of the ideas wouldn’t be possible in the near term, they present a framework for future infrastructure planning.

“Long term, as the roads get rebuilt, if (city officials) have the idea in mind, they can work with whoever is doing the work to have some of these things incorporated,” said Bohling, who helped coordinate the audit.

The audit was sponsored by the Michigan Department of Transportation and fits in with Gov. Rick Snyder’s agenda of increasing walkability in urban areas. The rationale is that a walkable community becomes a more desirable place to live because of greater opportunities for social interaction and physical fitness.

Spinoff effects can include aesthetic improvements and a better business environment, according to MDOT. Other communities that were audited are Paw Paw, Alpine Township, Wyoming, Meridian Township, Gaylord and Detroit. Results of the audit will be presented at the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber Summit in November. The group plans to provide the results of this audit at a future Downriver Summit.

“It’s really kind of a coup for Trenton to be included in this program,” Joe Hoshaw, president of the Trenton Business Association, said in a press release. “But, by sharing those results at the Downriver Summit later this year, many of our neighboring communities also will have a chance to benefit from what we learn.”

MDOT Announces Flat Rock Trail Funding

posted Mar 24, 2012, 11:38 AM by Unknown user   [ updated May 9, 2013, 8:59 AM ]

The new trail from Huroc Park in Flat Rock to Oakwoods Metropark is moving ahead.  The anticipated schedule is to award the construction bid this summer with completion by late fall 2012. Once completed, this trail system will allow unimpeded trail travel between Lower Huron Metropark in Van Buren Twp and the International Wildlife Refuge in Trenton.  Other connected local spurs will make it possible to visit 8 communities and 6000 acres of natural areas on over 50 miles of contiguous Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative trails!

Flat Rock bike path to wind through Downriver

posted Nov 13, 2011, 1:28 PM by Greenways Webmaster   [ updated Jan 11, 2013, 5:27 AM ]

November 11, 2011 by Candice Williams/ The Detroit News 

Flat Rock— After almost eight years and some hurdles, the city of Flat Rock is making strides toward a trail project to link into 24 miles of bike paths through Downriver.

The city expects to request bids by year's end to begin work on a 2-mile bike path to link the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority Metroparks to the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, said George Mans, Flat Rock economic development director. The new path will start at Huroc Park in Flat Rock and run through Huron Township and Oakwoods Metropark. The project hasn't been without its hurdles. The city recently had to purchase a portion of private land in Huron Township that was headed into tax foreclosure.

The city originally wanted only an easement, but found out that the owners of the property, who have moved to Florida, were in tax foreclosure to Wayne County.

So the city bid on the land for about $5,000, Mans said. Without it, the city would have had to redesign the project, said Flat Rock Mayor Jonathan Dropiewski. Work is expected to begin in 2012.

Greenway trail is cause for celebration at Humbug Marsh

posted Nov 13, 2011, 1:27 PM by Greenways Webmaster   [ updated Nov 13, 2011, 6:11 PM ]

Saturday, October 15, 2011 by Kelli Barrett/News Herald 

The completion of a Downriver greenway trail is cause for celebration at Humbug Marsh . 

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge will celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week with the completion of a greenway trail that links Lake Erie Metropark in Brownstown Township to the marsh, which is in Trenton and Gibraltar. The event will include crafts and other activities, family friendly hikes, refreshments and bike inspections. 

“We want to celebrate experiencing nature,” said Jamie Lanier, the refuge’s visitors’ services manager. “We want to encourage people to get outside and explore. 

“It is also a way to work with partners and thank staff and volunteers.” 

The trail, which can be used for biking and hiking, has been in the works for about a year and is part of Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, a community effort that wants to link Downriver communities through nonmotorized pathways. The trail is now part of 50 continuous miles of greenway trails. 

“Linking two units of the refuge is helping to connect the Downriver region,” Lanier said. 

The event will begin at Lake Erie Metropark, 32481 W. Jefferson Ave., at 9 a.m. The metropark’s $5 vehicle entry fee will be waived for those participating in the event. Participants also can travel from the Gil Talbert Community Center, 29340 S. Gibraltar Road, Gibraltar, to Humbug Marsh, which is a four-mile trip, as opposed to eight miles from Lake Erie Metropark. The marsh’s entrance is at 5437 W. Jefferson Ave., Trenton. 

Festivities will start at 10:30 a.m. 

“It will be like a carnival,” Lanier said. 

The celebration will begin with a dedication ceremony of the trail and then turn into a party with food, crafts, scavenger hunts, information booths and more. Photos with the refuge’s mascot, a blue goose, will be offered. Healthy snacks like apples, granola, raisins and water will be served. 

The free event is family friendly. 

The refuge’s urban location makes it a unique place, Lanier said. 

“Thousands of acres have been set aside to preserve nature, and we should enjoy it,” she said. 

It’s the only international wildlife refuge in the United States. It spans more than 48 miles of Detroit River and Lake Erie shoreline that includes coastal wetlands, islands, marshes, shoals and waterfront lands. 

Humbug Marsh is 410 acres of unaltered wetlands. It has some of the last unaltered U.S. wetlands in the Detroit River. In Humbug Marsh are three miles of trail, two wildlife observation decks, a wetland boardwalk and an environmental education shelter, and it is home to more than a hundred animal species and 90 plant species. 

Lake Erie Metropark is more than 1,000 acres with three miles of Lake Erie shoreline and includes a Marshland Museum, kayaking and fishing, and is home to more than 300 bird species. It also has a hawk watch program. 

Humbug Marsh is only open to the public during educational and special events. One of the reasons is that the refuge staff is so small — there are only four full-time employees. The staff offices are on Grosse Ile because the refuge doesn’t have a visitor or information center yet. 

“We’re still really in our infancy,” Lanier said of the refuge. 

A visitor center is under construction on 44 acres next to Humbug Marsh.

Bishop Park offers adaptive kayak launch

posted Nov 13, 2011, 1:25 PM by Greenways Webmaster   [ updated Nov 23, 2012, 9:56 AM by Unknown user ]

Adaptive Kayak Launch

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 by Jim Casuba/News Herald: 

WYANDOTTE — Not too long ago a person with physical limitations probably wouldn’t contemplate kayaking. After all, it’s a recreational activity that requires dexterity and flexibility. Perhaps the most difficult move for those with physical challenges is getting in and out of the narrow vessel. But there’s an answer to that problem and it can be found on the shores of Bishop Park. The city recently introduced what is believed to be the only adaptive kayak launch of its kind in Michigan. The launch, made possible through a public/private partnership between the city and Riverside Kayak Connection, uses a hydraulic lift system to transfer a person from a bench to his or her kayak. Although it is designed so that wheelchair users can get in kayaks, anyone can use it. 

Fred Pischke, director of recreation, leisure and culture for the city, said it took about five years for the idea to come to fruition. Riverside Kayak Connection, 4016 Biddle Ave., owned by Patrick and Tiffany Van De Hey, approached the city about it and officials liked the idea. The major factors to consider would be figuring out how to pay for it and where to locate it. 

The first potential site was at the foot of Pine Street, at BASF Waterfront Park. But Pischke said getting to a launch in that spot would be difficult for the physically challenged. Another location discussed was behind Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital, but that also had logistical problems. “Eventually they settled on the Bishop Park site,” Pischke said. “There’s a gate and ramp that goes down in elevation from the pier to the dock.” 

 What really got the ball rolling was a $30,000 Access to Recreation Grant that was acquired through the Kellogg Foundation. Anita Twardesky, public relations and marketing manager for Riverside Kayak Connection, said the company she represents applied for the grant.  Twardesky serves on the board of the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association and was chairwoman of the trails and blueways committee when she became aware of the available funds through the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan. 

 “That grant money allowed us to come up with out-of-the-box thinking,” Twardesky said. “It had to be a cutting-edge idea, an idea that goes above and beyond mainstream recreation.” According to Pischke, once the grant money was made available, the city pledged $90,000 in Tax Increment Finance Authority funds to pay the rest of the cost. Riverside Kayak Connection employees worked with the manufacturer, EZ Dock in Caro, to build a launch that works for those in wheelchairs. 

“They have a pond up there and we were able to see what worked and what didn’t work,” Twardesky said. She said Bishop Park is an ideal site because it blends in so well with other recreational facilities the city offers at the park. Twardesky also likes the fact the launch is in an inlet that allows beginners to stay out of the main portion of the Detroit River, if that’s their preference. She said some kayak launches use a roller system that runs parallel to the shores of inland lakes, but that type of launch wouldn’t work for the Detroit River. “This adaptive kayak launch with a transfer station and hydraulic lift is the only one of its kind in the state,” Twardesky said. She hopes to partner with other organizations for special events and activities at the kayak launch. Tentative plans call for offering kayak lessons and the sponsorship of a media day to help spread the word that the launch is available to everyone. 

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