Belding City Council OKs engineering and design of 2.2-mile city rail trail

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:41 am on Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A view from the southernmost trestle bridge in Belding near Wells Road shows a view of the Flat River looking north. The bridge will be incorporated into the 2.2 mile paved rail trail to be completed in summer 2014. — Daily News/Cory Smith

BELDING — The list of local cities that have adopted and installed rail to trail projects within their communities continues to grow.

Alma, Edmore, Greenville, Ionia, McBride, Owosso, Sidney, Stanton and St. Johns have all reaped the benefits of paved recreational paths, all part of one 125-mile stretch, the fifth longest of its kind in the nation.

By summer 2014, Belding will officially be added to that list.

Belding City Council members voted 4-1 Tuesday night to award Williams and Works — a Grand Rapids-based surveying and engineering company — the engineering and design duties of the 2.2-mile stretch of former railway that will become a paved recreational pathway featuring three trestles that cross the Flat River.

Three former railway trestle bridges over the Flat River in Belding, such as the center trestle near Bridge Street, will soon offer cyclists, runners and walkers a chance to travel through downtown Belding on a paved pathway that runs mostly along the Flat River for a 2.2-mile stretch. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Councilman Joe Feurestein was opposed to the motion.

Funding for the trail, which is part of the Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail-Trail, is being provided through two grants, city funds and private donors.

In 2011, the city applied for grants from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), but was forced to meet a match of approximately $500,000 in funds. The amount proved to be too steep, and plans for any design or construction of a trail were put on hold.

In October 2012, the city submitted grants again to MDOT for an enhancement grant and to the MDNR for a combined funding project for the Rails to Trails, covering 2.2 miles through the city of Belding.

The grants required match funding of $159,000, but the city was unable to acquire all of the necessary signed commitments for provided funding of the match.

MDOT contacted the city in February, notifying city officials that federal funds had increased the grant award as long as the city entered the project into the 2013-2014 fiscal year, a year earlier than originally budgeted.

The MDOT grant fund was officially announced Monday at $1,016,a000 and the MDNR grant was announced Tuesday at $300,000.

The rest of the costs for the project will be covered by the city’s contribution of $25,000 and $159,000 coming from private donors.

The total project funding is estimated at $1,500,000.

Mayor Ron Gunderson said the future and potential of the trail in Belding is a positive for the city, especially after the difficulties that came before Tuesday night’s decision.

“To have actually seen the expressions and disappointment on the faces of the people who have put so much into this rail trail after having to turn down the match, and now to have this offer just appear like this, it’s amazing,” Gunderson said. “I think this was a great blessing for the city of Belding and will be a huge step forward.”

The northernmost trestle bridge, located south of Long Lake Road in Belding, is surrounded by trees located in the woods over the Flat River. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Williams and Works was the winning bidder of engineering services with a bid of $72,000. They were selected by council members over Fleis and VanderBrink, which bid the project at $43,000.

Feuerstein said he was concerned in the difference in costs between the two firms and voted no on the decision citing lack a lack of details in the project submitted by Flies and VanderBrink, stating he wished they had proved more information.

Julianne Burns, who is the official grant writer for the city of Belding, said she is confident Williams and Works, though being the higher bidder, is the best selection of the two firms.

“I believe Williams and Works will give their highest priority and professional service to a very complicated project that is going through the heart of Belding’s downtown,” she said.

The city will pay no more than the $25,000 match that is required.

Engineering and design will be performed throughout the spring, summer and autumn of 2013, with construction of the trail beginning in spring 2014. Construction is expected to last three months and be finished by the end of summer 2014.

The trail begins at the north end of the city at Long Lake Road and concludes at the south end of the city, ending at Wells Road.

Citizens who are interested in learning more about the planning project for the entire 38 miles of state owned rail-trail from Greenville to Lowell to Ionia are invited to attend a presentation and public input session that will take place at the Friends of Fred Meijer River Valley Rail Trails’ annual meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 11 at the Pere Marquette Depot located at 100 Depot St. Belding.

The center trestle bridge, located between N. Bridge and E. High streets over the Flat River, will provide scenic views of the river and downtown Belding . — Daily News/Cory Smith

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