By Griffin Wasik
Ingham County Chronicle Staff Reporter
The Meridian Township Board of Commissioners recently unanimously passed a revision to the Pedestrian-Bicycle Master Plan will add nearly 80 more miles of bicycle paths on shoulders of roads, cross-country paths, and unpaved roads to Ingham County.
There are currently about 110 miles of such paths, according to meeting officials.
The plan will improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists who are trying to access parks, businesses, or people out exercising, according to meeting officials.
The master plan deals with much bigger things, Ron Styka, a trustee member on the Meridian Township Board of Commissioners, said.
“Our goal is to have people be able to travel anywhere in this township by biking or hiking all the way to Lansing,” Styka said. “We are going to have to find other funding sources for that, probably both federal and state money. Our budget will not allow us to do that by ourselves.”
Styka said he supports the plan.
“The township wants to be a more walkable and a more bicycle-driven community. This master plan will go a long way to have this happen,” Styka said.
Such plans can be appealing to current and potential residents.
“Bike and walking ability are two important things for urban developments right now,” Scott Witter, professor at Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design and Construction, said. “Especially as the millennials and the baby boomers move back to urban environments.”
Towner Road, Sierra Ridge, and Sander Farm Natural Area are the three most concentrated areas in the revision, according to meeting officials.
A paved shoulder is on the master plan for Towner Road, Marsh Road, and Saginaw Highway. The revision will change the designation from paved shoulder to an off-road pathway on the south side of Towner Road, John Veenstra, a Trustee member on the Meridian Township Board of Commissioners, said.
Witter believes the community, or the Department of Transportation, already has enough of the land in order to make shoulders on the side of the road.
“On major highways, such as Saginaw Highway, it depends if they have the right of way,” Witter said. “Then, all they have to do is pave the bike lane on the shoulder. If they do not have the right of way, they would have to go through a process of condemning each of the property.
“So, if they had to take someone’s sidewalk and front lawn to do that, they would have to do that property owner by property owner all the way down the road. This would be extremely difficult.”
Newton Road, Sierra Ridge neighborhood, and Towner Park will be connected by a cross-country trail, Veenstra said.
Bike lanes on main roads and through subdivisions are reasons people prefer to buy one house to another, Witter said.
“A lot of the communities create separate biking pathways,” Witter said. “Also, through residential areas, it’s a very desirable and marketing component for new and old housing areas.”
Meridian Township received permission from MSU to create a cross-country trail through the Dobie Reserve. The trail will connect Tacoma Hills Neighborhood to Dobie Road through the Sander Farm Natural Area, Veenstra said.