By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Township Board was scheduled Wednesday, March 9, to consider joining Saugatuck city applying for Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grants of $300,000 each to help complete the nonmotorized Blue Star Trail through the communities.
A public hearing on the matter was also advised for that night’s monthly board meeting, which occurred too late for this week’s print deadline.
The city, whose former council and staff opposed completing a short stretch through its borders based on cost and safety concerns, has in recent years changed course. It recently acted as lead agent for the tri-community’s (Douglas included also) application for $1.275 million in federal Transportation Alternatives (TAP) grants, administered through the Michigan Department of Transportation, for the project.
The city, on advice of MDOT officials, Jan. 24 quintupled its original commitment to $50,000 in matching funds in hopes of securing such a grant, which would cover close to 70 percent of the now-estimated local work’s $2.2 million cost.
The increase, per city manager Ryan Heise, would allow Saugatuck to address TAP comments related to adding more trees to the project and raising unit prices for boardwalk and grading as extra contingency for potentially-higher bids.
The township has committed $10,000 and nonprofit Friends of the Blue Star Trail — which for 11 years have worked towards the larger vision of a 20-mile recreatioinal path from South Haven north to Laketown Township’s existing Beeline Trail, which then links further north through Holland to Grand Haven —$205,000 worth of TAP matching funds towards what members call the 1.14-mile path’s Northern stretch.
The hoped-for combined $600,000 in MNRTF funds would, with matching municipal, Friends and donor pledges, generate an additional $1.0784 million for construction and engineering costs.
“The township,” operations coordinator Daniel DeFranco told the board before Wednesday’s meeting, “is moving ahead, on schedule, to submit its MNRTF grant application … gathering information and satisfying requirements of the application, including having Disability Network review the trail extension plan.
“A significant part of that process is hosting a public hearing and considering passing a resolution authorizing the township to submit the grant application. If we continue on this trajectory, we should satisfy all the requirements of the grant application in time for the April 1 submission deadline,” DeFranco said.
The projected local work consists of three segments:
• Washington Street (Douglas) to Lake Street (Saugatuck), 1,600 feet long and including the Kalamazoo River-crossing bridge.
“This segment,” the TAP grant submission notes, “includes approximately 77 feet of a 9-foot-wide, 2-way bicycle track and 7-feet-wide existing sidewalk (pedestrians). This was the only feasible option the Saugatuck Township Fire District would support because it maintained a continuous left-turn lane to allow for emergency vehicle to get across the only bridge in the community.
“Once on land, just north of the bridge, the two separate bike and pedestrian facilities merge into a shared use path. This will be done by expanding the existing 825 feet of sidewalk to a 10-foot-wide asphalt separated trail to Lake Street.
“On the south side of the bridge at Washington Street, the trail will merge directly into the existing BST through Douglas, which is a 2-way cycle track and sidewalk.”
• Lake Street to Maple Street (Saugatuck city), 900 feet long with a 10-foot-wide separated pathway.
It will require, says the narrative, “700 feet of an at grade boardwalk (or retaining wall) due to slopes along the roadway as well as relocation of an existing guardrail. The remaining 200 feet will be a 10-foot-wide separated asphalt trail with a modular block retaining wall (opposite slope condition).
• Maple Street to Old Allegan Road (Saugatuck Township), 1,300 feet long. Plans there call for 10-foot-wide separated asphalt pathway including 275 feet of boardwalk to cross a small low area, 425 feet of retaining wall due to grade issues and 600 feet of separated trail.
“The trail on the north end will cross Old Allegan, where it will connect directly to the existing trail segment,” the application says.
• North Street to Holland Street (township), 1,710 feet long including 210 feet of boardwalk to cross Goshorn Creek and the adjacent wetland, and 1,500 feet of asphalt separated trail, all being a 10-foot-wide pathway.
“This section of trail is the most unique,” reads the narrative, “as it will turn away from Blue Star Highway through Amalanchier Park and along 66th Street to Holland Street, where it will cross and connect directly to Laketown Township’s Beeline Trail (10-feet-wide asphalt trail) extending 8 miles to the City of Holland.
“This segment will utilize an old railroad grade, crossing a small creek with a boardwalk through an undeveloped park and along a low traffic road,” the application says.
Once the trail has been built, it continues, each of the three communities has agreed to provide for its maintenance, Saugatuck city and township from their general funds and Douglas from its major street fund.
Maintenance costs and budget were developed on a $1,700-per-mile figure, additional costs to maintain boardwalk and street markings; plus $2,000 per mile for snow removal and $500 for long-term maintenance, bringing the total to $4,770 per year, split up within each jurisdiction.
By Scott Sullivan