The Lansing River Trail (LRT) first opened in 1975 and since then has seen continuous improvements and extensions to bring it to the current 13-mile length. With unique riverfront access in the middle of a downtown area, the River Trail offers much to do.
However, there is a stigma of questionable safety correlated with the trail that is often misrepresentative of the truth.
Tony Beyers has been running the LRT website for close to a decade, which has live flood updates, a historical overview and parking information, among other things. Beyers said in all of his time there have only been two safety concerns that stood out.
According to Beyers, one was an unarmed robbery roughly five years ago and years before that there was a man making women feel uncomfortable, about which a police report was filed.
“People are generally concerned about the trail, but really they shouldn’t be,” Beyers said. “They know it goes through neighborhoods they probably aren’t familiar with, but people shouldn’t be afraid.”
Lansing Police Department Public Information Officer Robert Merritt agrees the LRT is a safe place for residents.
“As far as crime; it is few and far between on the river trail ‘proper,’” Merritt said. “The trail is safe …. However late evening and night hours could obstruct vision and be unsafe to navigate.”
Michigan State University junior Meagen Newberry has been running on the LRT for the last three years and said she hasn’t had any problems on the trail.
“I don’t go at night because it’s dark and there aren’t so many people,” Newberry said. “(During the day) there are homeless people sometimes, but they’re harmless.”
Tim Ayers, who has been using the LRT for a decade, agreed about the homeless people: “(In some areas) you’ve got a bunch of homeless people, but they’re alright. It’s an awesome place to walk. I like the trail, it’s got beautiful scenery.”
Beyers agreed that darkness on the trail contributes to concerns about safety because “the northern end is very dark and very secluded at night.” However, the trail is officially open between dusk and dawn, and according to Beyers there are not enough resources to keep it safely patrolled at night. The main complaint people have is actually about the condition of the trail infrastructure instead of the safety.
“The biggest complaint is the condition of the trail, which is going to change this summer. A lot of improvements to the trail are coming up now,” Beyers said. “There are going to be some bridge replacements, a lot of pavement replacements.”
Ayers agreed that the only thing he would like to see improved on the trail is the condition of the trail itself.
“Fix it up a bit, you know, fix the pavement,” Ayers said.
While the trail maintenance may be an inconvenience to some, there really isn’t a better time for construction work than in the summer, and these changes will enhance the experience on the trails and increase their longevity.
“One significant improvement as well – the bridge by Potter Park – that section right there floods really easily in the spring so that bridge is going to be extended,” Beyers said.
According to a crime map website, CrimeMapping.com, there is a pattern where crimes happening in the Lansing area don’t actually occur the LRT itself. Merritt agreed there aren’t noteworthy numbers.
“No real stats ….. on occasion we (LPD) will respond to a ‘Check subject’ … which can mean; intoxicated, passed out, or injured,” Merritt said.
The LRT is not as dangerous as it may seem, especially not during the hours of operation from dawn till dusk. Beyers also added that having more people use the trail will only serve to make it a safer place for everyone.
“Just being able to get out and ride and run without dealing with cars is probably one of the nicest things,” Beyers said. “… and the section through the woods between MSU and Potter Park is one of the better places where you can actually see quite a bit of wildlife though there.”
“It’s quiet,” Newberry said. “It’s peaceful.”