Belding council OKs Rails to Trails grants

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:37 am on Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail-Trail
Preliminary Budget for Belding
Item    Total
Asphalt Paving    $495,000
Bridges    $700,000
Contingencies    $119,500
Engineering    $262,900
Total Budget    $1,577,400
Proposed Fund Model
MDOT Enhancement Grant    $657,000
MDNR Grant    $300,000
RIF/RTP    $75,000
City of Belding    $25,000
Private/Other    $520,400
*RIF = Recreation Improvement Fund Grant
*RTP = Recreational Trails Program Grant


BELDING — Once a bustling hub with trains passing in and out of town on an hourly basis, the city of Belding may one day again see traffic flowing on the railways that once helped build the city long ago.

However, that traffic would be in the form of walkers, runners and cyclists as they travel through town on the Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail Trail.

Belding City Council members approved a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) grant application for the Rails to Trails project to travel through the Belding city limits Tuesday night.

The 26-mile trail, which is planned to travel from Lowell, through Belding and into Greenville, is part of a combined 125-mile rail-to-trail system that would traverse six counties and make it the fifth-largest rail trail in the country.

“It’s been three or more years since we started working on the rails-to-trails acquisition,” City Manager Randall DeBruine said. “Things are really progressing forward. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has talked with us on whether we’d be interesting in applying for a grant this year to do the portion (of the trail) within the corporate city limits.”

Council members approved the application for the MDNR grant, which would fund $300,000 of the project, unanimously.

According to DeBruine, the total cost is estimated to be around $1,577,400, which includes engineering, asphalt paving, and bridge work. However, if all goes according to plan the city looks to incur costs of only $25,000 (1.6 percent of the total cost).

“If the grants are accepted, the city’s total portion of this $1.5 million project would be $25,000,” DeBruine said.

Council member Roger Wills said he understands $25,000 could be spent elsewhere in the city, but believes the rewards of the Rails to Trails program are too great to ignore.

“$25,000 is a lot a money and you can spend it somewhere else — that is absolutely true,” he said. “But it has been proven over and over again, when you have a pathway coming through your town, economic development is a part of it. It helps the health of the people and has so many positives, it would help the economy in this town.”

Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Belding pointed toward the opportunity to pay only $25,000 of the more than $1.5 million in total costs as a primary reason to give the project a green light.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for a very low cost,” she said. “I can see where there might be some dismay in putting that money out there on this huge project, but when you can get something for such a low cost and have it already built into the Capitol Improvement Plan, I think it’s definitely a ‘go’ project.”

DeBruine said the proposed funding for the project will come from the MDNR, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), City of Belding and private sources.

However, according to DeBruine, there are “still some loose ends that need to be tied up” with the private sources.

“There is an application in to the Meijer Foundation,” he said. “We haven’t heard back yet, but we will know hopefully by summertime.”

In addition to the MDNR grant, City Council members voted unanimously to apply for an MDOT Enhancement Grant which would fund $657,000 of the project.

DeBruine stressed urgency in applying for the Enhancement Grant because the transportation enhancement program “is coming under attack by the legislators at the federal level due to budget issues.”

He said there is no guarantee that the grant will be around for the next fiscal year, which starts in October.

In other matters …
The Belding City Council approved a recommendation for a Specially Designated Distributor (SDD) license for Leppink’s Food Center in Belding with a 3-2 vote. Council members Joe Feuerstein and Ron Gunderson opposed.
The license would allow Leppink’s Food Center to sell packaged liquor and wine.

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