Walk About in Whitmore Lake
The township office hears it time and time again. It is very difficult to walk or bike around downtown Whitmore Lake. There are few sidewalks and those that exist don’t all connect, leaving pedestrians to brave walking along the roadway. As Township Officials, we realize this is a problem in our area, and we are working toward bettering the situation.
Some of you have noticed the new sidewalk going in on Main Street. The Main Street Sidewalk project includes an extension of the existing sidewalk that runs in front of the Township Office and the Westbrook Apartment complex, as well as a marked crosswalk to connect the new sidewalk to the existing sidewalk on the opposite side of Main Street. This project has been in the works for about 3 years now. The Main Street Sidewalk is fully funded by a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). CDBG funds can only be used in areas of low to moderate income, and must be used to address community development needs for the improvement of the health and welfare of the community for which other funding is not available. At the time there were not many areas in Whitmore Lake that qualified under these terms, so our choices on where we could use these funds were limited.
When we initially began this project, the Middle School was still in use as the Middle School, and there were quite a few younger kids that were walking to school along Main Street. Because there wasn’t a full sidewalk in the area, they were forced to walk along the roadside. It was determined that putting a sidewalk in this area would be quite beneficial in ensuring the safety of not just the children walking to school, but to everyone whether they were walking their pets to the Bark Park, or biking downtown to grab a snack.
Work began last week on the Main Street sidewalk. Yesterday they began pouring the concrete, which will be complete by next week. Lighted signs for the crosswalk have been ordered, and will be installed shortly.
Another project that is in the works is the completion of Phase 3 of the Non-Motorized Path along Barker Road. This project began quite a few years ago with the installation of Phase 1 - the section beginning at the Wildwood Lake subdivision and ending at the Elementary school, followed by Phase 2 -the section beginning at Main Street and ending at US-23. The third and final phase that will connect the two previous sections is in the final planning stages as we speak. Phase 3 construction is expected to begin next spring, if not sooner, and should be complete by summer 2017.
A third project that is just beginning is the Riverwalk. Part of the Parks and Recreation Board’s Master Plan is to install a pathway connecting Barker Road to the Jennings Road Athletic Complex. The Jennings Road Athletic Complex is centrally located in the residential hamlet area of Whitmore Lake and is a major recreational asset for Northfield Township. However, it is not easily accessible except by car. Creating a walking/biking pathway from the park to the downtown area would be a significant recreational asset in and of itself, and would make the complex much more accessible to many residents in the community, especially our younger population.
What you may not know is a portion of the riverwalk was actually started last year. Garrett Bone, a local Boy Scout, installed a Musical Riverwalk along the creek at the athletic complex as his Eagle Scout project. Along this path you will find three interactive stations, such as a xylophone and a hanging drum set using recycled buckets, tubes and pipes, where you can explore your musical side while enjoying the great outdoors. The Parks and Recreation Board will be working to extend this pathway all the way out to Barker Road near the Library. It has been proposed that the river walk would eventually extend along Brookside Drive, across Main Street, and eventually link to the drain in the Seven Mile Preserve Park. Benches, trailhead signage, and a path material of limestone or woodchips are envisioned for this project.
The pending purchase of the Van Curler property opens up more opportunity for a walkable downtown, however there are more challenges that face our area than just our downtown. One of our biggest future challenges is going to be making East Shore Drive more pedestrian friendly. Connecting to the Seven Mile Preserve is also going to be a challenge that we will need to work through. Another future endeavor will be to connect the southern and eastern agricultural areas to downtown with walking and bike paths, or possibly some horse trails. As with all construction projects, these things take time . With three sidewalk/pathway projects currently in the works, we are just getting started. There are many more areas that deserve some attention as far as walk-ability goes, but we believe that we are heading in the right direction so we can all Walk About in Whitmore Lake.