By Lisa Carolin
Close to 70 people filled Lima Township Hall Thursday, March 30, to attend a special meeting put on by the Township Board on the subject of the non-motorized pathway initiative.
The first part of the meeting was devoted to sharing information about the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative (HWPI). The main speaker was David Hardcastle, a member of the HWPI Board and a resident of Dexter-Chelsea Road in Lima Township. He was joined by his father, Jeff Hardcastle, HWPI board chair, and Coy Vaughn, Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation deputy director.
Highlights of the presentation included the history of HWPI, which was founded in 2014 and is an all-volunteer private entity based in Chelsea and Dexter that expanded to assist the County Border to Border (B2B) Trail system in December, 2016.
If a bike path can be built through Lima Township, HWPI’s role would include paying for the preliminary design, feasibility and engineering, and to raise private funds to pay for a large part of the actual B2B construction costs. $1.95 million has been raised to date with a total goal to raise $15 million.
The controversy is about who owns the Boland property, which was separated from adjoining properties in 1901. HWPI shared what it has learned about the Boland property:
-In 1901-1903, Boland completed grading and laid track between Dexter and Chelsea.
-in 1904 Boland sold all of his properties to the Jackson and Ann Arbor Railroad for $17,000.
-In 1939, Boland was acquired by the state road commissioner for $10,000 and was taken off the tax rolls.
-In 1966, the state deeded the Boland properties to the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC).
Jeff Hardcastle said that they expect to have more information about the Boland properties by mid-April. Up to now, HWPI has funded a preliminary feasibility study on the Dexter-Chelsea Road corridor, has been provided access to title work done by the WCRC in 2014 on land between Freer Road to Parker Road, and has mailed letters to residents affected by the first phase of survey work from Freer east to Dancer.
Survey work began in February and is paid for by HWPI.
If the pathway can be built, it will be 10-feet wide and paved, and HWPI will meet one on one with property owners and design engineers on individual parcels. The project would be built in two to three segments over a period of more than two years.
There was no shortage of questions from the many concerned residents who attended the meeting. Questions included asking about the timeline, the expectation of increased property values and increased taxes, whether HWPI has a back-up plan for a pathway through Lima Township, dividing the pathway into two five foot paths on both sides of the road, and who would have the right of way.
Jeff Hardcastle admitted that building the path becomes a sensitive issue when houses are close to the road, and he told the residents that it is within their rights to seek counsel, although he suggested they wait until the final information about the Boland property has been determined.
Vaughn told residents that trails are a priority for the County Department of Parks and Recreation.
“We’ve had a number of situations where the trail goes by people’s driveways,” said Vaughn. “We try to meet with each property owner and find a design that works best for them.”
As far as dividing the path in half on either side of the road, Vaughn responded that the ideal situation is to make the path completely separate from traffic.
Many of the concerned residents have signed up for an informal communication network and some are involved with the Lima Township Conservation Committee, which works to maintain the rural qualities of the township and to protect properties.