FLINT TWP. — You probably won’t find a bigger cheerleader for recreational trails than Jim McClung, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. He played an active role in getting the Genesee Valley Trail established here and spends a lot of time using it, cleaning it and advocating it.
But McClung is not a fan of the new portion connecting the trail to the City of Flint, which opened August 6. In fact, McClung advises avoiding it, based on his bad experience.
“I am telling you to stay south of Corunna Road,” McClung said during public comment at a recent township board meeting. “I had a bad experience on August 3 and I will never go back again. It is an accident waiting to happen.”
Asked to elaborate, McClung said his bad experience included meeting a woman who was apparently homeless and living on the trail, judging by the sleeping bag and pillow she was carrying.
“I saw her pick up food off the ground and eat it,” he said. She told him she had not eaten in days and was hungry. So he gave her $3, all the money he had on him, to go to the Burger King on Ballenger Highway to buy food.
McClung said he’s never encountered anything like that during the four years since the opening of the township section of the trail where he has spent “hundreds of hours.”
McClung said he’s advising other regular users of the trail not to use the city of Flint section or not to go alone.
“I have rode several trails in Michigan and that is the worst section of any trail I have been on in the state,” he said. “Just the way it is laid out. There are too many places for people to hide. The trees need to be cut back and there are too many paths going off into sections of the wood.”
McClung said he rode the trail the whole way to Kettering University before turning back. Nothing bad happened to him but he was riding alone and came away with the impression that using the trail could be dangerous if Flint police don’t patrol it.
“I just had this feeling,’’ he said. “I did it and I thought this is not the smartest thing I have ever done. That is how I felt the whole time I was on it.”
McClung thinks that section of trail was poorly planned with little thought given to the safety of users.
“I can’t say one positive thing about it,” McClung said. “It looks to me like they knew they had land to put the trail in and they put it in just to say they had (done) it.”
He said he hopes the Flint leg of the trail does not give a bad name to the township section.
Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said township police have rigged up a golf cart with a goal of patrolling the trail at least once a day.
“We have mentioned before that if anyone uses the trail, have a buddy system and not be on it by yourself. That is the best way to be safe about it,” she said.
Official trail hours are sunrise to sunset from April 1 to December 1 but some use it year-round, weather permitting.