BY CAMERON VREDEVELD
LANSING STAR STAFF WRITER
It might be raining. It might be snowing. It might be sunny and 75 degrees out. Regardless of the weather, the Lansing River Trail is full of runners, walkers and bicyclists.
The weather doesn’t have as much of an effect on the users as it does on the trail.
Cracks and potholes in the pavement, shards of wood missing on bridges and boardwalks and frequent flooding are just some of the repair and maintenance needs of the trail. Lansing officials are aware of how widely-used the trail is, and that is why they are investing in upgrading it.
Proposed changes include buying property to expand it, replacing rotted planks on the bridges and boardwalks and re-paving sections.
View Lansing River Trail in a map indicating improvements and important features.
“The boardwalk is fine now,” said Brett Kaschinske, director of Lansing Parks and Recreation. “It could last at least another 20 years.”
Sections of the boardwalk were replaced in January and February said Kaschinske. However, Kaschinske said that the city is planning on eventually tearing down the river-lining boardwalks.
“Asphalt is a lot easier and cheaper to maintain than the wood on the boardwalk,” said Kaschinske.
Trading wood for asphalt is a move that excites daily trail user Jason Yerke. He and his brother Derek started a four-mile longboard race on the trail three years ago. The race, which began with 15 riders, grew to more than 150 participants last year, he said.
Yerke owns a Lansing longboard company and uses the trail to test his boards. But he has many complaints about it.
“Yeah, it’s pretty bad,” said Yerke. “Where I usually ride (near Hawk Highlands and Aurelius Road) is the worst part of the trail unfortunately. Pot holes, cracks, flooding, it all gets in the way.”
Bridges and boardwalks almost always have rotting planks, making it very difficult to ride on, he said.
Lansing replaced a portion of the boardwalk last year, said Andy Kilpatrick, the city’s transportation engineer.
Kilpatrick is also in charge of the recent and most drastic change in the trail to date.
“As of April, we have plans to add approximately four miles onto the trail,” he said.
The extension, which has been discussed since 2007, will stretch from Jolly Road in Lansing to Holt Road in Delhi Township. The $3.3 million project was funded by two major grants from where? state? and a portion of the Lansing’s gas tax money, said Kilpatrick.
“Because the trail is considered a road used for transportation, we were able to use some of the gas tax money,” said Kilpatrick.
Members of the Lansing Parks and Recreations Board are discussing more additions to the trail, he said. “Next on the list is Delta Township.”
Lansing also purchased a vacant industrial building along River Road. The building will be demolished, and the land will be used as either open space for benches and recreation, or re-routing the boardwalk that runs adjacent to the property, said Lansing council member Jessica Yorko. The $90,000 that it took to purchase the quarter-acre was funded for almost entirely by state grants.
While extending the 13-mile trail serves a good purpose, some say that the city should be investing in changes to the existing trail.
“It’s nice that they continue to add onto the trail,” said Tim Potter, manager of the MSU Bike Service Center. “That being said, I think there are other problems that should be dealt with.”
Many areas of the trail that are shaded tend to get a slippery film on them, especially the portions closest to the river, he said. A number of crashes are due to bike tires slipping—a problem he says has an easy solution.
“Laying down grip paper or a non-slip pavement would be cheap and easy,” said Potter. “I’ve seen a number of parks do this.”
Both Potter and Yerke expressed a common concern for the frequent flooding of many parts of the trail.
“In many areas of the trail, especially over by Potter Park Zoo and Aurelius Road, there are always water deposits,” said Yerke. “And a lot of times there is a pothole underneath it.”
The Lansing River Trail website reports that as of April 25th there was up to three feet of water covering portions of the trail, making it virtually impossible to ride on.
Users of the trail created a Facebook page called “Lansing River Trail Conditions,” where they post pictures and updates to let other members know about flooding, cracks in the pavement or boardwalk, and obstacles such as fallen trees.
“The city is very good about responding to complaints about the trail,” said Potter. “Unfortunately there are quite a few.”