Group explores connecting Pentwater to rail trail; meeting Oct. 19

September 16, 2015

rail trail extension -1Story and photos contributed by Ron Beeber.

PENTWATER — A group of avid bicyclists and area government officials believe the best way to provide a safer bicycling route between Pentwater and the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Bike Trail is to construct a 10-foot wide designated bike lane along six miles of area roads.

This topic was discussed at a recent meeting of representatives from several townships, Oceana and Mason counties, Hart Main Street, Pentwater Village, Pentwater Chamber of Commerce, and bicycle clubs. 

The group will meet again Monday, Oct. 19, from 2-3 p.m. at Pentwater Community Hall. Anyone interested in helping advance the initiative is welcome to attend.

The lane would start on Wayne Road at Longbridge Road; run south along Wayne Road; west along Harrison Road; and south along 72nd Avenue to Hart Cemetery; then go east on Main Street. Once riders reached Water Street, they would turn south and pedal a short distance to connect to the Hart-
Montague rail trail.

This route already is part of U.S. Bike Route 35 that runs 500 miles through Michigan from Indiana to Sault Ste. Marie. Earlier this year, several green and white USBR 35 signs were installed around Oceana and Mason counties to mark the cycling route from Hart to Pentwater, and from Pentwater to Ludington.

The United States Bicycle Route System is an 8,000-mile developing network of regionally and nationally-significant bicycling routes that began in 1978. Its goal is to become the largest official cycling route network in the world. The system identifies roadways and trails that are most suitable for long and short distance bicyclists who are comfortable riding with traffic.

“With the explosive growth of bicycling nationwide, cyclists are pedaling through our area in increasing numbers, and it’s more likely for motorists to encounter them,” said bicycle enthusiast and meeting facilitator Claudia Ressel-Hodan. “The USBR system determined that this is the safest route between Pentwater and Hart. We agree, and just rail trail extension -2want to make it even safer.”  

“Even when temperatures are too cool for boating and the beach, it’s good weather for cyclists,” said Eva Gregwer, executive director of the Pentwater Chamber of Commerce.  “Making cycling safer enhances the area’s recreational amenities available to our residents in the spring, summer and fall. And attracting more visitors here before and after the peak summer tourist season would help sustain many of our area businesses that rely on sales to tourists.”      

Meeting attendees speculated that it would cost about $900,000 to construct the estimated six-mile project. They noted that similar projects are mostly funded with grant monies from sources like the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, and the West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition.

Before receiving such grant monies, projects typically are required to raise a certain amount of tax deductible, “local match” contributions from individuals, businesses, and donor-directed funds of a community foundation. To improve this stretch of USBR 35 between Hart and Pentwater, meeting attendees estimated that $75,000 might be needed from such sources.

It also was noted that Pentwater Township’s current five-year Capital Improvement Program already comprehends the construction and installation of a non-motorized path along Longbridge Road, from Ridge to Monroe roads. This would make it safer for cyclists to pedal alongside that winding 2.2 mile stretch of roadway, so they could connect with either Ridge Road to get from or to Silver Lake, or the unpaved, three-mile stretch of Railroad Avenue that runs through a scenic, forested area between Longbridge and Harrison roads. And the township’s Longbridge Road project also would provide a safer connection with USBR 35 that runs along Monroe Road and Sixth Street into the Village of Pentwater.  

Next steps are now being planned. They include reaching out to the Oceana County Road Commission, possible sources of grant monies and contributions, and the affected municipal governments.    

For more information about the upcoming meeting, contact Dr. Hodan at 231.233.9717.

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