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Lapeer, Michigan, has Extensive Trail System that Connects Community
By Matt Bach
Location: Southeast Michigan
If someone wanted to go for a stroll, jog, or bike ride around Lapeer 15 years ago, the main option would have been on the street along with the cars and trucks.
But today there are about three miles of paved, pedestrian-friendly trails that people can use to connect to multiple city parks, several schools, the downtown district, and outlying commercial areas.
“We had some ball fields and playgrounds, but there weren’t any trails here 15 years ago,” said Ray Turczyn, the director of parks, recreation and cemetery for the city of Lapeer. “Getting trails was one of the highest priorities of the people in terms of their recreation use. I live in the city and now I can walk anywhere I want. I can go to Meijer, Walmart, anywhere downtown to any of the stores and to any of the parks. I have pedestrian access to all that and can do a lot less in my car.”
Having a more walkable community started in 1992 for Lapeer after resident surveys and the city’s parks and recreation master plan identified a need for a trail system. The city used grant and city park fund dollars to purchase some abandoned railroad lines for $25,000.
Then in 1994, in what was called the Linear Path Development Project, the city built more than two miles of paved trails, bridges, and boardwalks along the abandoned railroad property. The constructed trail connected four city parks and cost nearly $260,000. It was funded through several sources, including $180,000 from the DNR Recreation Bond Initiative, $60,000 from the Lapeer Optimist Club, and $19,600 from the city park fund.
Turczyn is proud of the fact that the city built the trail system using primarily grants and donations. Less than 10 percent of the funding came from city tax dollars, he said.
But city leaders just didn’t start building trails. They had a mission in mind. They wanted to build a trail system that connected all of the city’s parks and other public areas, including ball fields, schools and the downtown area.
“The idea was to connect our neighborhoods to our parks and schools and downtown area, and businesses,” Turczyn said. “All these trails lead to our park amenities—pavilions, restrooms, and ball fields. So you can go within the parks and between the parks and neighborhoods using the trail system. All the trails don’t necessarily connect together because it’s really been about connecting areas of the cities to each other.”
For example, one residential area of the city called Audubon Park Neighborhood didn’t have any sidewalks and the walkability was low. But the neighborhood did have a park—Audubon Park. So a pathway was constructed around the park and a pedestrian bridge was built to connect the neighborhood to a nearby commercial area. To fund the $225,000 project, the city secured $150,000 from MDOT transportation enhancement funds and a $75,000 grant from Walmart.
The trails now connect to Annrook, East Annrook, Rotary, Cramton and Audubon parks to numerous public facilities—Lapeer West High School, Rolland Warner Middle School, Mott Community College-Lapeer campus, St. Paul Lutheran School, and Chatfield Academy, a charter school. It also connects to two commercial areas. The concept was that a city resident could get to any of these areas by biking, rollerblading, walking or jogging.
The city also received a $250,000 Kellogg Foundation grant and funding from the Lapeer Community Foundation to build a handicapped accessible path and education center in one of their parks. In addition to providing universal access, the area will have a teaching station to conduct outdoor classes about nature and other topics.
On a longer-term basis, the city is looking to form a trails master plan to supplement the city’s parks and recreation plan. This trails plan will lead them for years to come as they look to expand the trail system out of the city limits and into the surrounding townships and county.
Matt Bach is communications director for the League.