Saugatuck Township Playing Role In Blue Star Trail Development
In a small way Saugatuck Township officials contributed to the big and ambitious project known as the Blue Star Trail, the construction of a paved, 20-mile non-motorized pathway running from South Haven to Saugatuck.
Earlier this month, the Saugatuck Township Board unanimously approved an agreement between the township and two nonprofits dedicated to the promotion and construction of the trail: the Friends of the Blue Star Trail and The Allegan County Community Foundation.
The Friends is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization located in Casco Township in Allegan County. The trail is estimated to cost $6.1 million.
Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan described the agreement:
“The idea is that you (the Friends) pay for the trail and we (the township) pay for the maintenance and repair of the trail because ultimately we will take ownership once it’s complete.”
He was speaking to the township board and representatives of the Friends present at the meeting, explaining the agreement called on Friends to conduct all needed public and private funding through fundraising and grant writing while the foundation is charged with administering and dispersing those raised funds.
The township would manage an escrow fund where those funds would be deposited to pay for construction work. The township would also act as the legal applicant for grants (e.g., the State of Michigan DNR Trust Fund Development grant, etc.).
“All our interests are protected,” said Sheridan about an agreement he and other officials had legal counsel review carefully.
A very similar agreement is soon expected to be approved by the neighboring municipality, the City of Douglas.
The trail will run off-road along the west side of Blue Star Highway.
The ongoing fundraising campaign plays a crucial role in the cause, and so far the Friends organization has been successful. It recently raised over $140,000 in approximately five month, funding that help to construct a two-mile section of the project in South Haven to begin in 2014.
Also scheduled for 2014 is the portion from Center Street in the City of Douglas, running south to Exit 36 of Interstate 196, for which the city has already allocated general revenue funds to pay for.
The 20-mile trail has two small portions already done, including one in Douglas: the .5 miles running from Center Street north to the Kalamazoo River Bridge.
Further information about the project and how to donate is at www.bluestartrail.org and www.fotbst.org.