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#OTGYpsi: Park And Trail Improvements In The Ypsilanti Area

For this week's "On The Ground Ypsi," WEMU's Lisa Barry and Sarah Rigg from Concentrate Media talk with Peter Sanderson from the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation division about recently completed improvements to Ypsilanti area parks and trails and what else is in the works.


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: Safer trails, new signage, and other improvements on the way for Ypsi-area parks and trails

Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation

Border to Border Trail

Iron Belle Trail

Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS)

Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative


Lisa Barry: [00:00:00] You're listening to Eighty-Nine one WEMU. I'm Lisa Barry and this is On the Ground Ypsi, our weekly segment with On the Ground Ypsi's project manager Sarah Rigg to talk about one of her stories this week for the Concentra Media online outlet. Sarah joins us now, along with one of the people she interviewed for the story. So, tell us who you are and what you wrote about this week, Sarah.

Sarah Rigg: [00:00:23] Before the summer was out, I wanted to get an update about what sort of park and trail projects are going on in Ypsilanti Township. And I have brought with me principal park planner for Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission Peter Sanderson.

Lisa Barry: [00:00:38] Hi, Peter. Thanks for joining us.

Peter Sanderson: [00:00:40] Hello. Thank you for having me.

Lisa Barry: [00:00:42] So was the focus of the article, Sarah, about what's new or what's continuing or what were you looking to share?

Sarah Rigg: [00:00:49] I was kind of wrapping up like kind of an overview of what's been happening in the last year to 18 months and then what sort of in process right now in terms of parks and trails. And there's several really cool projects going on right now. I think first, maybe we want to talk about some of the improvements to the Border to Border Trail and then the connections that they're helping to create between the city and the township to make it more easy to walk or bike back and forth from city to township.

Peter Sanderson: [00:01:17] So, yes, we have a number of projects that we've been working on with Ypsilanti Township, the city of Ypsilanti, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission. Representative Petersen's office has been helping us to work through MDOT's process on several key projects that will improve the non-motorized transportation network in the Ypsilanti area. And we're very excited to be a partner in these projects. Ypsilanti area was our very first segment of the Border to Border Trail back in the early 2000s, working with St. Joe's Hospital and Washtenaw Community College. And, over the past 20 years, the trail has expanded quite significantly. And so, our goal with the Border to Border Trail was to connect from the Washtenaw/Wayne County border all the way over to now the Jackson/Washtenaw County border. And so, we're very excited because, last year, we actually connected to our first border, and that is the border with Ypsilanti Township and Van Buren Township at Rawsonville Road. So, we were able to work there with the township and the road commission, Rawsonville Elementary School and the Huron Water Pathways Initiative--it's a nonprofit group supporting the trail effort to connect to North Hydro Park, the county line at Rawsonville Road, and to tie into the elementary school. So, that's just one of the projects that we had going on. It's a little bit less than a mile long. We also completed some improvements in Frog Island Park in the city of Ypsilanti and rehabilitating that trail, connecting from Forest Street down to Depot Town and Cross Street. And a third project is it's along Grove road from where the trail comes out from the Water Street site trying to get across I-94 to the south. So, that project is broken into two phases, and it was partially completed last year. And, actually, we are completing the pouring of the concrete bridge deck. So, that should start moving that project towards completion. The challenge with that one is that the bridge itself is owned by MDOT. And so we've been working with the city of Ypsilanti and MDOT to complete that. It's only a 600 foot gap, but it fills a critical role in the Border to Border Trail and the non-motorized network around the city of Ypsilanti, because there was really no good pedestrian or or bike access across the freeway at Grove Road. And it was definitely not accessible in terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There's a very large curb there. So, we are expanding the sidewalk on one side and making it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. And that will link the Border to Border Trail along Grove Road, meaning that will be connected all the way from the county line to the City of Ann Arbor.

Lisa Barry: [00:04:28] And I understand that is now about 35 miles long--the Border to Border Trail?

Peter Sanderson: [00:04:35] That's right. Countywide, our goal is to connect, you know, from the Washtenaw/Wayne County border through Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Dexter, and Chelsea, and then on up to Stockbridge. That's part of the statewide Iron Belle Trail Initiative, which is being led by the DNR. So it is a regional and statewide trail initiative. But we're trying to take care of our local park here, which is the Border to Border. And, yes, there are about 35 miles existing or under construction right now.

Lisa Barry: [00:05:05] And have you seen more need and use of that, due to the pandemic, where people are spending more time outdoors? Have you have you seen an increase in that over the last year or so?

Peter Sanderson: [00:05:16] Absolutely. I think that the pandemic certainly taught us that parks are essential, and people were really able to get out and explore the wonderful park resources and trail resources that we have right in our backyard here in Washtenaw County. We saw some of the permanent counters in the city of Dexter, and we saw those numbers go up by more than 50 percent compared to previous years, just in 2020 alone. We haven't collected the data for this year yet, but those are giving us regular counts that we have been doing some work with the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study to collect other counts across the county, including in the city of Ypsilanti. But we don't have that data yet.

Lisa Barry: [00:06:03] And, Sarah, what else did you uncover when putting together this story?

Sarah Rigg: I just want to start by saying that I am a huge proponent of the Border to Border Trail. It runs right behind my house in the West Willow neighborhood in Ypsilanti Township. And we frequently take the Grove Road segment that Peter was just talking about. And it really was not fun. I was a little scared to go over the highway there. And there's some areas we had to take your bike up over the curb. So I'm really excited about that. That work is going on today. And so, I talked to Bonnie Wessler from the City of Ypsilanti about some projects they're doing or their role in some of these projects. And I also talked to Susan Faulkner from the Huron Waterloo's Pathway Initiative because they are a funding partner for several of these projects, like the Border to Border crosses multiple jurisdictions and cities. And, a lot of times, cities can only spend their money within their own borders. So here, the nonprofit really helps with those cross jurisdiction, you know, ironing out all the details. And then, I also talked to Mike Hoffmeister at Ypsilanti Township about the segments and what they're excited about and got a few updates about the skate park and dog park plans for them as well.

Lisa Barry: [00:07:22] Sounds like a lot of work is continuing, and, to quote one of the people you quoted in your story, the goal is to create healthy, connected communities. And it sounds like that is what is happening.

Sarah Rigg: [00:07:33] It sure is. I'm really excited about all these connections, the connection along Huron Street and the connection along Grove because people were not feeling very safe and probably were not very safe crossing over there. But it's really important that their communities be connected, because people from the township want to go downtown or to Depot Town to go to restaurants and people in the city want to come out to the township and go to the post office or Kroger or the Whitaker Road Library. So, I think these projects are really important.

Lisa Barry: [00:08:02] People will be excited to read more about it in this week's On the Ground Ypsi article. Sarah Rigg. Thank you. And Peter Sanderson, principal parks planner for Washtenaw County. Thank you as well for talking to us for this edition of On the Ground Ypsi here on WEMU.

Sarah Rigg: [00:08:16] Thanks, Lisa.

Peter Sanderson: [00:08:17] Thank you.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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