Saugatuck Doing Due Diligence On Blue Star Trail Plan
In every sense of the word, there is a bridge between the City of Douglas and the City of Saugatuck over the proposed non-motorized trail.
The topic surfaced at Monday night’s Douglas City Council meeting where Douglas City Engineer Brian Vilmont of Prien & Newhof provided council members with visuals of the final proposed trail and road design.
The trailway runs on the west side of Blue Star Highway from Center Street northbound across the bridge to the intersection of Lake Street and the Blue Star, the boundary and entrance to Saugatuck.
The design will get rid of the existing four lanes and replace it with two lanes—north and south traffic lanes—and a separated 14-foot-wide non-motorized trail on the bridge’s west side. It also includes some Blue Star landscape improvement and curb islands at intersections.
However, as Vilmont explained to Douglas council, if Saugatuck officials continue to resist, the dedicated trail would terminate not across the bridge, but south of the bridge at Douglas’ Main Street.
“We are spending a lot of money here to stop at Main Street,” said Douglas Council Member Patricia Lion of the $427,000 CMAQ Grant (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) grant that comes with a 20 percent local match.
If the trail ends at Main Street, the route will be compromised for bicyclists, said Vilmont.
Douglas officials expressed their puzzlement over their Saugatuck counterparts’ resistance to the trail, citing that it was antithetical to the national movement towards bicycle-friendly infrastructure.
Saugatuck city officials and residents have referred to the project as “the trail to nowhere.” Officials have reiterated public safety as a top priority in the discussion and review process, (i.e., making enough space for emergency vehicles; traffic congestion during the busy summer season that could be a hazard of cyclists; blind spots; and the very steep section of State Street as one of the proposed routes.)
As alternatives to going in front of the iconic Saugatuck palette sign, city officials, along with Friends of the Blue Star Highway, are studying ways to go around it, using State and N. Maple streets to eventually end up back at Blue Star Highway.
The maintenance of the trail in the future is also a concern for Saugatuck as well as the few trees that are proposed to be removed for the project.
Saugatuck residents like Sherry Tedaldi, who resides by Blue Star Highway and North Street, says she plans on organizing what she says would be affected residents and together go to State of Michigan officials to oppose the trail.
“I got a notice they (Saugatuck Township) is going to take my land,” Tedaldi said at last week’s Saugatuck City Council meeting, referring to the township’s ongoing trail project, along the west side of Blue Star Highway from North Street, south to Old Allegan Road.
“Why would you want to continue to build something when you know it’s not going to have continuity (if Saugatuck does not accept it).”
Saugatuck officials continued to review their options this Thursday at a council workshop (after The Local Observer edition this week went to print), having expressed serious concerns for the trail route along Blue Star Highway.
In the meantime, Saugatuck Township and Douglas, having already secured funding from state and federal grants, are moving forward with their sections of the Blue Star Trail this spring and summer.
Lion and colleagues view the accommodating of bicyclists as an integral component of economic development, and say the Saugatuck leadership ought to also be doing everything it can to push for the same.
As an owner of the Rosemont Inn Resort B&B, she asserted, “The number of people that bring their bikes to my B&B has increased dramatically throughout the years.”
Lion is also involved in the Saugatuck-Douglas Visitors Bureau. “Our research indicates that what visitors to resort communities are looking more and more for is opportunities for biking, hiking and other outdoor activities.”
“I am really happy about the bike path; I am sorry Saugatuck doesn’t want to join it,” said Douglas Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Harvath.