October 30, 2014

Depot receives grant for rail trail plan

5/28/13

STANDISH — The Standish Historical Depot and its controlling agency, the Arenac County Heritage Route Authority, received a $17,500 grant two weeks ago from the Central Michigan District Health Department to develop a rail trail plan.

Heritage route authority President Curt Hillman said the grant is the same kind the city of Omer received from the CMDHD for its own proposed trail project, but the authority wants to use it to help turn abandoned railways into trails for people to walk and bike along through the county — rail trails.

“We’re doing a study and report to see where we can do rail trails,” Hillman said. “There’s an old abandoned rail between Au Gres and Omer we’re looking at about doing something with, but we need to do a study to see where the trail is needed and where it can be done. This is giving us a plan to work by.”

Completing the study would give the county a solid plan of action it could use to secure additional grant funding to work on the project in earnest, Hillman said. While he acknowledged several municipalities have already requested 2-percent grant funding for working on the trail, he said there are no solid ideas of the cost or what specific route it would take.

The heritage route authority has already started on the study, Hillman said, and while it is scheduled to be completed in a year, he believes it will be completed before then.

“At this point, it’s just to study stuff, and hopefully we can show it to people and get some money from (the Michigan Department of Transportation) or the tribe or something,” he said. “It’s just a thing of credibility, as the study has proven that’s where we should do it.”

Joe Sancimino, who has been working on the project with the authority, Standish Mayor Mark Winslow and Arenac Township Clerk Cindy Halamar, told the Independent last November that trails currently run up the coast to Bay County and from the Au Gres area north to the tip of the Lower Peninsula. Arenac County lacks any sort of rail trail to link the system.

Sancimino added that a dirt trail could be constructed cheaply, but to pave it or add benches and latrines would drive up costs. Paving a trail would make it more accessible to people in wheelchairs or powered carts, he said.

Halamar said during the Nov. 1 Arenac Township meeting that federal grants for rail trails exist, and the authority could pursue those to help construct its own.

According to Sancimino, while the initial idea for a trail would run from Au Gres to Omer, a future route could travel down through Standish, past the Saganing Eagles Landing Casino, and into Bay County.

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