BELDING — On a cold, 19-degree February afternoon, George Raimer braved the winter temperatures on his bicycle riding from Saranac to Ionia to survey the future River Valley Rail-Trail.
During his ride through the snowy, unpaved trail, Raimer spotted deer, ducks and other winter wildlife and described a vision of what he one day hopes to be a regular trip for anyone with a desire to go for a walk or bike ride near and in the Belding area.
“There are currently many trees down and there are plenty of flooded areas, but one day this is going to be a beautiful trail for people in the area to take advantage of,” he said.
Raimer, a member of the Friends of Fred Meijer River Valley Rail-Trails, spoke about his trip along the trail during Monday night’s monthly group meeting at the Pere Marquette Depot.
The group, which operates to offer support in the construction and maintenance of the 26-mile rail-trail from Greenville, through Belding and to Ionia, share’s Raimer’s vision of the future trail.
The group offered its support Monday night of two grants that Belding City Council approved for submittal to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) during last week’s city council meeting.
“It’s really exciting that Belding has come to the forefront and said that they are going to go for these grants,” group secretary Carolyn Kane said. “History tells us that if you can get a portion constructed, people will want more. We want to get it all done, the 125-mile trail, but this portion in Belding is a great place to show people how premiere the scenery is on this trail.”
To officially offer their support, group members passed a motion to write a letter of support addressed to the city of Belding to be submitted along with the grant applications to the MDNR and MDOT.
Construction on the trail in Belding, depending on the outcome of the pending grants, is expected to begin in early 2013.
Lynn Mason, the chairwoman of the Midwest Michigan Trail Authority, said she hopes the trail can incorporate the new Veterans Memorial if it is to be located to the west of the Pere Marquette Depot on Gibson Street.
“A Veterans Park, if located at the depot, would sit right alongside the valley trail,” she said. “A connection between a Veterans Park and the rail-trail would be a great thing for this community.”
Belding Mayor Ron Gunderson said a decision on the future location of a Veterans Memorial in Belding would be made, at the earliest, during next week’s city council meeting.
“We’ve been waiting on a decision from the Belding Downtown Development authority (DDA),” he said. “They chose the depot location over the vacant Breimayer lot location.”
The Breimayer lot is located on the corner of Congress and Bridge streets across from City Hall.
The location of the Veterans Memorial has been a frequent topic of debate at several city council meetings, but Gunderson said the council has been waiting for input from all groups and boards involved in the process.
“We’ve received input from the planning commission and recreation board and now the DDA.,” he said. “The decision will be brought before city council at next week’s meeting.”
Mason also spoke of the possibility of incorporating Electrolux’s condemned Gibson Building property with the rail-trail.
“Belding has this little issue of a historic district going on, but there could be a real connection between that historic Gibson building and the rail-trail that runs through it,” she said. “If we could somehow get some relationship with Electrolux and connect the two, in some way, that would be great.”
The fate of the Gibson building in downtown Belding won’t be discussed by the council for a few more weeks when City Council and the Historic District Commission begin discussions with Electrolux in March.