For the past decade, a group dedicated to creating a nearly 20-mile off-road bicycle path connecting South Haven to Saugatuck has focused its efforts on developing the north end of the route.
Now, the Friends of the Blue Star Trail is turning its attention to forming partnerships with communities located at the southern end of the proposed bike path, including the City of South Haven.
"We need your support and input," Friends of the Blue Star Trail President Clark Carmichael told South Haven City Council members at their meeting on Monday, Oct 4. "We've never been here before," he went on to say regarding the organization's presence at a South Haven city council meeting.
The Friends of the Blue Star Trail, which has been in existence since 2009, originally envisioned building an off-road trail on Blue Star Highway starting just south of North Shore Drive in Casco Township and extending north to Saugatuck. Now, the group would like the southern end of the trail to begin at the Kal-Haven Trail, which is located south of Baseline Road in the City of South Haven.
"It has been impressed on us that we need to be a regional trail connection to the Kal-Haven Trail to the south and the Beeline Trail to the north leading to Holland," Carmichael said. Doing so may increase the group's chances of landing state grants, he went on to explain.
South Haven city officials say they are receptive to the Friends of the Blue Star's efforts.
"It's a great project," Mayor Scott Smith said.
To show support for the Friends' efforts, South Haven City Council members voted Monday to send a letter of support to the organization.
As one of Michigan's first designated Trail Towns, the city, over the past decade, has committed funds to extend the Kal-Haven Trail into the downtown business district, as well as the Van Buren Trail to the city limits, create room for bike paths along downtown streets and along Broadway and LaGrange streets, and construct a recreational path along a portion of Baseline Road from Blue Star Highway to North Shore Drive.
Supporting the Friends of the Blue Star Trail seems like a logical next step for the city's encouragement of the expansion of recreational trails, according to City Manager Kate Hosier.
"The commitment we have shown to trails in the past will continue as we work with the other partner communities and organizations to create the Blue Star Trail," she said.
The city's support does not tie it at this time to providing funds for the development of the trail, Hosier said. However, the letter of support could help the Friends group obtain grant funding, according to Carmichael.
"We'd like to see all the communities (along Blue Star Highway between South Haven and Saugatuck) support the trail," he said.
The Friends' plans to build the 16.2-mile paved, off-road trail is anticipated to cost approximately $6.3 million. So far, the group has received enough private funds and grants to create the northern portion of the trail on Blue Star Higway with the cooperation of the City of Saugatuck, Saugatuck Township and Village of Douglas.
Next, the group will have to work with the governmental units of Ganges, Casco and South Haven townships, the Allegan County Road Commission and City of South Haven to lay the rest of the trail.