By Scott Sullivan
Repairs made by Saugatuck Township last week to 300 feet of the 0.7-mile non-motorized trail it built in 2007 have critics of its current stretch being built questioning the wisdom of such expenditures.
Township officials say any infrastructure requires maintenance, but the $9,345 it spent to replace 3,170 square feet of the 10-year-old, 10-foot-wide asphalt trail came about 10 years early.
“According to the owner/operator from Stripe-A-Lot Asphalt Maintenance, which completed (last week’s) project, two portions of the trail were not installed properly,” said township manager Aaron Sheridan.
Two affected stretches, which suffered ruts due to root intrusion on their north side, did not receive adequate asphalt in 2007 around their edges.
“If full and even layers of asphalt are installed properly by a contractor with the proper sub-base being excavated and constructed, and if proper aggregate and compaction is applied, a non-motorized trail should operate on an average 15- to 20-year capital replacement schedule,” Sheridan said.
Last week’s work was budgeted by the township at $12,000 but came in less due to absence of clay deposits beneath its surface. But it was still not free.
The township built its 2007 non-motorized trail from North Street, at Saugatuck city limits, west of Holland Street to Blue Star Highway, then north to connect to the trail that runs south-north throughout Laketown Township. That stretch connects north through Holland.
Saugatuck Township now, drawing on U.S. Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants procured through the 2008-formed Friends of the Blue Star Trail, is building a link west of Blue Star from North Street to Old Allegan Road, connecting at both ends to Saugatuck city limits.
The nonprofit Friends hope to eventually build a 20-mile path from South Haven north to the current Saugatuck Township stretch. The City of Douglas has joined other local governments taking advantage of CMAQ and other grants to build non-motorized trails as part of an effort to link such “linear parks” statewide.
Both Douglas and Saugatuck Township have agreed to assume future maintenance costs for stretches within their boundaries. Douglas planned to build its second stretch, from Center Street north across the Blue Star Bridge to Lake Street, this summer with help from a Friends-obtained $427,000 CMAQ grant.
But Saugatuck City Council, noting both cities share Blue Start Bridge jurisdiction and Lake Street is entirely within its limits, declined to support that effort, citing safety and future maintenance (or legacy) cost concerns.
“The city,” council wrote Friends president Jeanne VanZoeren April 10, “is requesting a meeting with members of your organization, city officials and MDOT/MNRTF grant administrators … to identify the city’s concerns and expectations the granting agencies have regarding current/future grant submittals initiated by the Friends to minimize confusion moving forward.” Those talks continue.
The Friends have agreed to assume future maintenance costs for municipalities that choose not to take them on, but the group’s ability to ensure that would depend upon future fundraising, not money it has, at this point, in the bank.
Trail supporters say future maintenance is a small cost compared to health, recreation and business benefits communities can expect to receive from such trails, whose initial construction costs are fully funded.
Critics claim such trails, used by a minority, will be funded by all taxpayers, create their own safety concerns and have dubious benefit. Our letters page this week, as in past ones, offers many views.
Stay tuned …