Grand Rapids could build riverside bike, walking trail extension in 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The city in 2014 could extend a riverside trail farther north, coming closer to connecting downtown with an existing non-motorized path in Riverside Park.

Grand Rapids City Commission has authorized a grant application for a 10-foot-wide trail that would run along the east bank of the Grand River from Canal Street Park to Leonard Street NW, then east along Leonard to Monroe Avenue. A Michigan Department of Transportation official said the trail is a priority for the state agency, which could contribute about $170,000 toward the project’s estimated $287,000 cost.

Grand Rapids would have to come up with the rest of the money: The Monroe North Tax Increment Financing Authority has committed $75,000 and the city also is seeking a grant from the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition.

The trail – including lighting, ornamental fencing, rest areas, benches, plantings and trees – would be built on an old railway that MDOT in 2011 bought for $2.2 million. That purchase of about one mile included an $850,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and about $200,000 in city sources.

The proposed 2014 project would pave a trail on only a portion of that land: Future segments could extend the trail past Leonard to Riverside Park, north of Ann Street, where an existing path links to several regional trails.

“Future phases are really dependent on the funding,” said Jay Steffen, the city’s assistant planning director. “When this is done, you’ll actually be able to walk along the river from Fulton (Street) up to Riverside Park and to Cadillac and beyond.”

Steffen said future segments of the trail could be candidates for Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants, although there’s some lawmaker interest in spending that money elsewhere. A plan to build the trail under Leonard and Ann streets would add significant costs, he said.

Mike Smith, grant coordinator for MDOT’s Office of Economic Development, said a future connection to regional trails makes the Canal Street Park-to-Leonard link a priority for the state agency.

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