By Jim Hayden
Saugatuck City Council voted unanimously Monday to deny support to a non-motorized trail plan designed by Douglas because of safety and traffic concerns on the Saugatuck side of the Blue Star Bridge.
Douglas will design its portion of the trail despite the action of its neighbor, Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere said after the almost 2-hour meeting at Saugatuck City Hall.
In a related decision, Saugatuck will meet with trail designers next week to work out a way to avoid safety concerns on the part of the trail planned for Lake, State, Maple and North streets in the city.
The overall trail will extend from South Haven to Douglas and Saugatuck, then link to portions in Saugatuck Township and Laketown Township to Holland.
The nonprofit Friends of the Blue Star Trail secured a $427,000 federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant with a local match to extend the trail through Douglas north of Center Street across the Blue Star Highway Bridge that links the two cities.
The plan called for reducing the number of lanes on the bridge, adding green space and routing bicycles into Saugatuck along Lake Street.
“There are too many loose ends,” Saugatuck city councilman Bill Hess said about the proposal to support the plan. No traffic study was conducted on the area nor analysis included in the proposal of the long-term maintenance costs, he said, referring to a March 10 letter from Jonathan Moxey of Fleis & Vandenbrink, the city’s engineering firm.
Moxey also cited the need for a drainage study, safety concerns about bicyclists crossing Lake Street and the width of lanes on the span.
“I’m in favor of the trail,” said councilman Jeff Spangler, “but we just need time to work through this.”
None of the council members supported the Douglas plan for the bridge. Councilman Ken Trester was not at the meeting.
Douglas will continue with its portion of the trail, taking it to Main Street instead of across the bridge spanning the Kalamazoo River.
Saugatuck officials will meet at their Thursday, March 23, workshop with Tim Stewart of Hurley & Stewart LLC to work out a way to avoid routing bicyclists to Lake and State streets.
Stewart presented new plans at the close of Monday’s meeting that takes the trail from the bridge, across Lake Street on the west side of Blue Star Highway to Maple Street to connect with the Saugatuck Township portion of the trail. The proposal would move a guard rail closer to the road and put the trail on the west side of that barrier. Some engineering would be needed because of a steep ravine, Stewart said.
This alternate route would not impact Saugatuck’s iconic neon artist palette welcome sign on the corner of Lake and Blue Star in any major way, said Mayor Chris Peterson. Some bricks will have to be moved but not the sign itself, she said.
She walked the route with Stewart last week so they could discuss a compromise on the trail plan.
This plan would eliminate the need to remove trees along Lake Street and avoid possible problems with parked vehicles on State Street.
“This is a process,” said Stewart.
By Jim Hayden