Proposed Plan For Bike Trail At Saugatuck's Airport Property Brought To City Council For Consideration
Mountain bike enthusiasts and advocates are asking the City of Saugatuck to make use of the 170-acres of old airport property it owns by building a four-season, single-track bike trail.
“I walked around the property and realized how perfect it would be to build a bike trail,” local area resident and member of the Michigan’s Edge Mountain Biking Association (MEMBA) Dana Burd told the Saugatuck City Council at its Monday night meeting.
In their proposal, Burd and MEMBA, a non-profit 501c3 organization, would have the city—under a letter of understanding—play the role of land manager for a public, seven-mile sustainable trail, built by MEMBA volunteers using hand tools.
Burd echoed city officials’ own description of the property from past years, described as “rugged natural beauty,” and spoke about its varied terrain, flat, rolling and steep topography.
“It would be an incredible draw for the area,” he said. “I talked to a lot of people my age (people in their 30s), and they used to travel long distances for a mountain bike trail—Grand Rapids, Yankee Springs, and up north (in Michigan). To have it in our backyard would be a great asset,” he added about the property located east of 63rd Street and west of the adjoining Ravines Golf Course, three miles from downtown.
Council members liked the idea, but some cautioned about other possible future uses. They want to further discuss it at a future workshop meeting.
“We have talked for a number of years about the use of that property,” Saugatuck City Mayor Bill Hess shared with council colleagues, Burd and Randy Knapp, president and trail coordinator for Owasipe Scout Reservation Trail and Burd’s teammate on the trail proposal.
In years past, the property was eyed for a comprehensive recreational field by Saugatuck Public Schools’ Community Recreation and there was some discussion of having a possible camping ground there.
It is currently occasionally used as an outdoor shooting range for the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department as well as exercises for the SWAT team of the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department.
Burd understands the precarious nature of the project.
“If you decide to change the land use (from trail to something else), then we are out of luck.”
He further spoke about the missed opportunities for grants.
“You can get DNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) grants, but the DNR wants committed uses,” noted Burd.
“I think (the mountain bike trail) is a very complimentary idea of what we may do down the road,” said Saugatuck City Council Member Barry Johnson.
Saugatuck City Council Member Mark Bekken took a cautious approach.
“This (proposal) underscores the need to evaluate the use of that property. There could be competitive uses.”