GRAND BLANC TWP. — Hikers, bicyclists and nature lovers throughout Atlas and Grand Blanc townships are eagerly anticipating the 2022 construction of the Perry Road pathway that will connect the two communities.
The 3.1-mile non-motorized trail from Gale Road in Atlas Township to the existing trailhead at East Middle School in Grand Blanc Township is another link in the statewide Iron Belle Trail, a 2000-mile network of walking and bicycling trails that stretches from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.
“It’s a very exciting time,” said Grand Blanc Township Supervisor Scott Bennett, an avid bicyclist.
The Perry Road pathway is one of two trails scheduled to be built in the township next year. The other will go in along the Dort Highway extension, between Cook and Baldwin roads. The Dort Highway path will tie into the pathways at Ascension Genesys.
In the next two years, township officials hope to see that trail continue down Embury Road to Grand Blanc Road, and connect to the Bicentennial Trail and Iron Belle Trail.
“Years of work to make Grand Blanc Township a walkable and bicycle-friendly community is starting to be realized with several new non-motorize pathways planned to be built this year,” Bennett said.
“Residents of all ages will enjoy the ability to walk and ride their bikes safely to a variety of areas in the township and city. We are really looking forward to the next few years as we continue to expand the non-motorized pathways.”
The Perry Road connector is estimated to cost $2.9 million, of which $1.7 million is already secured.
At present, the state Department of Transportation is reviewing an application for another $1.2 million, according to Jacob Maurer, lead planner with the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, a driving force behind the project.
Township officials also are working with the Genesee County Road Commission and Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission to get the connector built and keep it maintained.
Whether the 10-foot paved trail will be an all-season pathway will depend on the township boards, who are in charge of maintenance, Maurer said.
Grand Blanc Township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta said the township started providing all-season maintenance on its trail system this year.
Construction is expected to take four to five months. A start date is as yet to be determined.
Jeff Rains, a member of the volunteer group Friends of the Grand Blanc Grid, called the connection “revolutionary.”
“Just being able to get to Atlas and Goodrich and Grand Blanc and do that trail … it’s going to be the coolest ride around here,” Rains said. “I really think it will change the way people communicate between those three communities. You’ll see people biking between those communities daily, because it will be safe and easy.
“It’s more than just a trail, we’re connecting communities, that’s a whole different advancement. It will give people in Atlas and Goodrich access to downtown Grand Blanc, which is nice in the sense that there are a lot of businesses and restaurants they don’t have. And, it gives us access to those smaller communities which have some unique features.”
Rains said the trail through Goodrich is a beautiful stretch to ride.
The existing trail in Atlas Township goes from Perry Road south along Gale Road, then east along Hegel Road into the Village of Goodrich to M-15.
“The DNR is still in conversations with Oakland County to make a connection along M-15 between Genesee and Oakland counties,” said Maurer.
Ultimately, additional extensions are likely to take the trail south along M-15 through Ortonville and into southern Brandon Township, then east where the path will connect to an existing trail in Oxford.
On the western end, the long-term goal is to utilize a series of pathways in the City of Grand Blanc and Grand Blanc Township, and build connecting trails where needed, in order to extend the route north through Burton and into the City of Flint and the Flint River Trail at Riverbank Park.
“The Iron Belle Trail initiative requires a lot of regional collaboration,” Maurer said. “So, every community is at a different stage in development. Communities (along the route) are seeking grants and other private funding. They’re finding sources to build their sections of the trail. It’s a step-by-step approach.”