Council approves preliminary trail design plan

Dave Lein, Editor

ELK RAPIDS – One step closer.

That was the consensus of the Elk Rapids Village Council on Monday, following its 7-0 unanimous approval of a preliminary design plan for the Acme to Elk Rapids non-motorized trail.

The vote by council came during its regular June 17 meeting following an in-depth presentation of the design plan by Julie Clark, executive director of TART Trails, along with land architect Matt Levandoski and engineer Scott Post of Grand Rapids-based Prein &Newhof, the firm overseeing the project’s design.

According to Clark, the ongoing planning process and preliminary design approval are part of the larger Traverse City to Charlevoix Trail project, which – once completed – would create a 325-mile network of non-motorized trails in northern Michigan. TART is working with Networks Northwest and the Top of Michigan Trails Council on the design and construction for this segment of the project.

A number of meetings, open house events and public input sessions regarding the future trail have been held over the last several years at various locations along the proposed route. The last primary gathering was an open house on Feb. 27 at the Williamsburg Event Center, held to generate public input regarding the Acme to Elk Rapids segment.

“Throughout this process we’ve done a lot of listening and learning, and intend to go slow to go steady,” Clark said at the February event. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle; you have a lot of pieces that make up the big picture and it’s important to find the right pieces and where they should go.”

At that time she said a meeting last August was part of the preliminary design stage, which led to the engineering phase on Feb. 27, and most recently, this week’s council meeting and approval.

Much like they discussed at the Feb. 27 meeting, Post and Levandoski, reiterated that the challenge in designing a trail is looking at “what you want to do vs. what you can do.”

“The intent is to maximize use, but minimize impact,” Post said. “Ultimately, public input leads to the character of a trail.”

Outlining the recommended route for the trail, essentially along the west side of US-31, Levandoski said it minimized the potential impact on private property but – more importantly – offered the safest and best access to public parks, waterways and natural areas.

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