Potential benefits of paved rec trail outweigh negatives

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.Trail

A friend Wednesday e-mailed me his opinion about the public hearing on the City of Wayland’s second attempt to get a state grant to help fund a paved trail on the old interurban from Dahlia Street to 133rd Avenue.

The friend said of the proposed trail, “…other than spending tax dollars, who does it benefit? Those few who would take the time and effort to use it, which would be few indeed. I think it makes much more sense to have the Council and City Manager concentrate on adding sidewalks so all people would be safe instead of walking on the roads where there are presently no sidewalks.

“This ‘road to nowhere’ is a boondoggle and a misuse of taxpayer dollars. I would be for it if the whole interurban property north and south were supported to be paved to provide a pathway between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Just to do it in our little section would be a waste of public funds.”

I am certain council members Tim Rose and Tracy Bivins would agree with this assertion. The City Council has been fighting over this issue now for two years, and the vote once again was 5-2 Monday night just to have a public hearing Monday, March 16.

I continue to support the idea of a paved trail for bicyclers and walkers, of which I am one. I walk with my dog and sometimes my wife all over town. Some places aren’t particularly safe, like Elm Street’s heavy truck traffic without sidewalks. My e-mailing friend insists the solution to this is more sidewalks.

Yet the State of Michigan is offering financial support with a grant to help build a trail that first, would promote healthier local people by offering a place for them to walk or ride bicycles instead of driving cars, and second, would be an attraction to help entice more people to come to downtown Wayland, thereby serving as an aid to economic development.

So my support of a paved interurban trail is both personal and practical.

I’ve heard arguments on the other side, but don’t agree with the contentions. The “trail to nowhere” will remain just that as long as no one does anything about it. The only way Wayland Township or Leighton Township will ever get on board is have it built. If it’s not, it will never happen.

Fears that teen thugs will use a paved trail to party down at odd hours and make residents miserable also are unfounded. Other paved trails have borne out the assertion that the people who use them are tree huggers, families, joggers, bicycle enthusiasts and eventually potential customers for Wayland’s goods and services.

I support spending the $1,000 for the grant application simply because the rewards are great at low cost.

The time has come for the City of Wayland to stop complaining about the noise when opportunity comes knock, knock knocking at our front door.

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