By DAVID GREEN
For decades, young adventurers have hiked the east side of Bean Creek to Riverside Park. In the future, residents might get to know the west side of the river better if a proposed walking path is constructed.
About 20 residents attended a workshop meeting Thursday at city hall to hear a presentation by landscape architect Patrick Judd about a walking path. Judd was hired by the city through a grant from the Charles Fay Foundation to create a conceptual plan.
Judd’s intent was to collect ideas from residents before moving forward with additional details.
The initial design shows a one-mile path that would start near Main Street in Wakefield Park and parallel Bean Creek to the north into the park land addition that the city purchased in 2001. Where the city property ends, the path would loop around to the left and reconnect with the main route back to the south.
Judd’s plan also included a pedestrian bridge that would connect the park land to Riverside Natural Area.
Trailways exist in several parts of Michigan, he said, and there’s interest at the state level of connecting them to form larger networks.
An expanded trail system in Morenci could some day include Bean Creek south to where it merges with Silver Creek and then along the border of the industrial park following Silver Creek. The former railroad bed could also be developed to connect with communities to the northeast.
Judd noted the presence of significant plant communities in the woods along the Bean and he also pointed out the bluff along the west edge of the newer park land—a land form he called unique in the typically flat farm land of the area.
Judd pegged the cost of an eight-foot path at $175,000 for an asphalt trail and $155,000 for a compacted trail of fine limestone rock. Without the pedestrian bridge, he estimated a savings of from $30,000 to $45,000.
In order to obtain a grant from the Department of Natural Resources, Judd suggested submitting an application offering a community match of about half the cost. At the low end, a 20 percent match would likely place the application at the bottom of the stack.
Judd thinks the city would have a good opportunity to attract grant money if it emphasized the preservation of its natural resources.
Doyle Collar of the Fay Foundation asked if the city would be able to afford payments for its share of the cost.
“I see the city able to in a matter of years,” said city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder.
Judd was asked about exercise stations and he said they typically cost from $2,000 to $3,000 each if bought from a kit, although some communities make their own.
He mentioned the idea of adding baskets for disc golf, an activity he described as a very rapidly growing sport.
Judd’s initial design met with some criticism. Romero Sanchez expected the trail to continue farther north to provide access into new territory. Arlan Murray expressed concern about trash on his adjacent property.
Keith Pennington didn’t like the loop in the plan, stating that it doesn’t go anywhere or connect to something else.
Don Thompson pointed out that the park addition was purchased with the idea of adding baseball and soccer fields. Judd said the loop could skirt the edges of fields, but noted that access for traffic remains a problem for that area, other than by foot.
Judd stated that the bridge into Riverside could bring more “ears and eyes” into the park and perhaps increase civic pride in the natural area. Heather Walker agreed, saying that the bridge would make Riverside a more obvious part of the city’s park system instead of a dumping ground as some people see it.
Judd recommended a controlled burn of Riverside for three years, saying that plant communities that have lain dormant for years would reappear.
“How extensive is the work you’ve been hired to do?” Pennington asked.
Judd said his firm—Conservation Design Forum of Ann Arbor—is responsible for two more rounds of refinement to the plan and would also assist with initial funding requests.