By Sue Moore
Walking trails have become a kind of Holy Grail for attracting young and old alike to a community.
Vicksburg is blessed with a 1.6 mile trail was constructed in the mid-90s with funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The village is once again looking for grants for an extension of the current trail through the village both north and south of the existing one.
An application for 2.5 miles has been submitted to the DNR Trust Fund by the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority’s executive director, Kathleen Hoyle. The total cost of the expansion will be approximately $3.5 million, with grant money being sought from several different sources. The project would also need local matching dollars of about 20 percent of the total cost.
“The DDA concerns itself with downtown Vicksburg but to attract businesses and people to come downtown, we know they look at the quality of life as a defining factor in their decision making,” Hoyle pointed out.
The proposed trail would extend from the current trailhead across from the Depot Museum on N. Richardson Street, cross the back of the properties on the south side of North Street, cross over Main Street to Sunset Lake ponds, cross over W. Prairie Street to traverse Clark Park, cross Washington Street to the old Simpson Lee mill property, then follow along W Avenue to the entrance of Angels Crossing golf course.
The first phase of the trail plan it would also go north from TU Avenue where the current trail ends. That would include an extension up to the Portage City limits; Hoyle said Michigan Department of Transportation reviewers like to encourage interconnectivity of trails.
It will take up to ten months to know if the initial grant is successful. Then the hard work begins: securing matching funding sources, trail design, obtaining easements, drawing up construction plans and letting bids. The earliest that work could begin, Hoyle estimated, would be fall of 2016 or spring 2017.
Hoyle has worked to meet an April 1 deadline, obtaining letters of intent from local units of government, land owners, and other contributors. She plans to also apply for part of the money from the Michigan transportation department for another segment of the plan. That’s due on June 1.
The trail plan was an important part of the five-year update of the parks and recreation master plan that was approved in January. The other parks in the village were also singled out for future improvements that would complement the 2.5 miles being proposed to the DNR.