Still Important Issues To Discuss & Review Regarding Blue Star Trail, Says Saugatuck City Officials
There is still a lot to discuss regarding the Blue Star Trail, said Saugatuck City officials at Monday’s council meeting following a presentation by the Friends of the Blue Star Trail group.
Those discussion points, city council members pointed out, include reviewing engineering information from consultant Jason Raleigh of Hurley & Stewart and Friends of the Blue Star Trail Treasurer John Adams.
“I know the devil is in the details,” said Saugatuck Mayor Pro-Tem Ken Trester, also extending gratitude towards Adams and Friends’ organization for working with the city on the council’s concerns.
Council members Monday requested a little more detailed illustration of the two alternative routes proposed by the Friends group showing sidewalk extensions, signage and boardwalks to help the public traverse wetland areas.
In order to appease concerns expressed by Saugatuck city officials, the Friends’ representatives said they planned to avoid traversing the Lake Street/Blue Star Highway intersection, thereby addressing safety issues and preventing disruption to the city palette sign, deemed an iconic, visitor-welcoming feature of the city.
The Friends group has proposed looping around the respective street intersection using other streets.
One option runs west on Old Allegan Road from Blue Star Highway - where Saugatuck Township’s portion is slated to begin construction this summer - then turns south on S. Maple Street, turns west on State Street, then up Lake Street to end back at Blue Star Highway.
The other route option starts at the same location—the Old Allegan Road and Blue Star Highway intersection—but instead of turning west on Old Allegan, it runs more south to S. Maple Street, then up S. Maple Street to, again, follow the same path as the first option.
Both routes present challenges to city officials: Maple Street could call for a possible 10-foot wide trailway; other streets may require existing sidewalks to be widened up to 10-feet wide; the very steep hill that is State Street presents safety and logistical concerns; there is a proposal to remove some trees; boardwalks will be needed to traverse wetland areas;, and other streetscape modifications.
Funding from state agencies - the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund - is contingent on demonstrating contiguous connectivity as well as adhering to the standard specifications of Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), noted Raleigh.
However, there is more than one way to connect the non-motorized trail and abide by the respective requirements. Low traffic volume streets like State Street may only require minimal work, striping and signage.
On the other hand, S. Maple Street may call for a 10-foot-wide paved surface with additional footage for a shoulder on either side.
Saugatuck City Planning Commission Member Dan Fox, in attendance at Monday’s meeting, voiced his concerns.
“I was struck by (the possible project on) Maple Street, the 10-foot-wide trail. I know if that was happening on Elizabeth Street (where Fox lives), I would have plenty to say.”
Friends representatives, however, are optimistic they can work out the issues by collaborating with the city.
“What we are proposing here are two possible hybrid options. We have signage where we can meet those (MDOT) requirements with minimal impact to city,” noted Raleigh.
He said he will go back to MDOT with the input provided by council, with the intent of submitting a grant application by April 1.
Friends of the Blue Star Trail is an all-volunteer organization assisting all units of government along the proposed The Blue Star Trail, a designated non-motorized 20-mile contiguous trailway along Blue Star Highway connecting the communities of South Haven, Glen, Ganges Township, Douglas, Saugatuck and Saugatuck Township.
Construction of phase two involving Saugatuck Township - (the north sector) - is slated for this summer along the west side of Blue Star Highway running from North Street south to S. Maple Street, with portions of it being a boardwalk so as to go over wetlands.
The group is currently planning phase two where the Blue Star Highway Trail starts near exit 36 of I-196 and commencing south to 126the Avenue (there is a public hearing on this at Saugatuck Township Hall on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.)
And Douglas has been granted a CMAQ Grant (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) to finish its 14-foot-wide, non-motorized route from Center to Lake streets, a project that has been folded into its overall Blue Star Corridor improvement effort.