By BETH ALTENA
Mountain bikers welcome—Rockford’s reputation as a prime community for biking may soon become even more envious. The townships of Courtland and Cannon have proposed a three-community collaboration to create a bicycle trail between Luton Park in Cannon Township through parts of Courtland Township and meet the White Pine Trail in downtown Rockford.
Rockford City Manager Michael Young met in June with Courtland Township’s board to hear more about the proposed project. Luton Park is a large county park located at Ten Mile and Kies Street. According to Young, the trail is recognized nationally as an outstanding mountain biking experience. Cannon and Courtland townships hope the City of Rockford is interested in joining with them to create the connector.
The first step is an improved parking area in Cannon Township at the Luton Park entrance off Ten Mile Road east of downtown Rockford. According to Cannon Township Supervisor Steve Grimm, Cannon has committed, along with Courtland Township, to share the funding for an extensive parking lot project. The parking lot improvements to the public access will be funded half by Kent County and the other half split between Cannon and Courtland townships.
Both Cannon and Courtland have committed to $25,000 each, each year for three years for a total financial commitment of $75,000 per township for the parking project.
“We get a lot of complaints about the parking on Kies,” Grimm stated. The Michigan Mountain Biking Association developed the park’s mountain biking trails, which have become so popular that the new parking lot at Kies is often full. Grimm said the complaints are that the bikers park at the old parking area, the site of a large barn, and along side the road. “I think they park anywhere. The main parking needs to be at Ten Mile and that’s a better location for that.” The existing parking will remain, allowing bikers to access the trails either from the north or south end of the property.
The connector to the White Pine Trail has been a goal of Cannon Township, which had a Parks and Recreation millage approved after completing a significant trail from the Township Hall on Belding Road to Townsend Park on the corner of Cannonsburg and Ramsdell Road. That trail may be linked to the Ada Township trail system in the future.
Currently the route from Luton Park to the boundary of Rockford is a matter of speculation, Grimm said, but at some point the biking trail would enter Rockford to link to the White Pine Trail in downtown Rockford.
Young said he told the townships that, theoretically, if they can bring the trail linkage to city limits at Courtland and Ten Mile, the City would be able to run a trail/sidewalk north to Eleven Mile.
Young told the Squire he would probably not initiate efforts for this project unless first getting a clear go-ahead from City Council given recent objections to putting in sidewalks on Elizabeth Street as part of an upgrade to the part of town known as the “Wolverine Addition.”
Those streets, Sigsbee, Adolf, Norwood and Elizabeth, all were slated for a $1.1 million dollar resurfacing and upgrade in sewer and water as well as adding sidewalks, all in accordance with the City of Rockford North Area Sub Master Plan. Residents on Elizabeth Street protested bitterly about the proposed sidewalks during the Monday, July 8 Rockford City Council meeting and were greeted with commiseration by council, although a motion by Council Member Steve Jazwiec to remove the sidewalk portion of the project was unseconded.
Young said the proposed connector between Luton and the White Pine Trail would include addition of a bike lane on existing roads to reach the City of Rockford and then the route would run from Eleven Mile to Northland Drive where an existing bike lane connects to Rum Creek Nature Trail west of the Community Cabin. The final link would be a trail from the Community Cabin to the White Pine Trail. “I think this fits nicely with our recently approved goal of making the City more bicycle friendly,” Young commented.