by Nathan Warner
Livonia Township’s April 20 open house to discuss a feasibility study of a trail connection between Sugarbush Preserve and the Great Northern Trail attracted about 10 people.
While little opposition to the proposed trail study surfaced, concerns over spending money in lean times definitely came up.
“How are you paying for this?” Joe Bean, a Livonia landowner asked. “I can hardly afford my property taxes as it is.”
Gary Doebler, Livonia Township supervisor and park board chair, explained that the money is already available for the study from a SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) grant to improve health.
“It’s going to be spent one way or another for something in the state,” he added, “so the township might as well use it if we want it.”
Funding sources for the actual construction of the trails, however, are still uncertain. Doebler said that once the study is completed, they will have a clear estimate of expenses to build the trail and will then look for funding options dependant on costs, available grants and timing.
Doebler and Amy Bower, a representative for Hoisington Koegler Group Inc. (HKGI), introduced the maps with the proposed trails.
“Do we know how many people use the Great Northern Trail and Sugarbush Preserve currently?” Sue Guy, a Livonia resident, asked. Doebler said he plans to check with Elk River about the current resident usage on their side of the trail but pointed out that he uses the trail and sees people frequent it.
Sugarbush Preserve is located on 239th Avenue between Highway 169 and County Road 1 just north of Elk River’s city limits. It is about a mile from the Great Northern Trail, which runs parallel to Highway 169.
Doebler says the proposal is similar to the trails connecting the Great Northern Trail to Woodland Trails Park in Elk River.
Currently, Waste Management owns the land where the Great Northern Trail would extend north of the Elk River city limits. Doebler is optimistic they will sell to the county to extend the trail, but that is a county project, not the township’s.
“So it’s out of our hands,” he told the people that showed up.
Two main trail options were shown with multiple variations depending on budget and input from residents. All property owners whose land the proposed trails would cross have been contacted and none has been opposed at this stage of the study.
HKGI analyzed the trail options, weighing such factors as cost, user enjoyment, ecology and wildlife, safety, constructability, distance, and private property usage. Different types of trails such as gravel, boardwalk, hiking, skiing, and interpretation points were also analyzed.
Visit http://www.livoniatownship.org to learn more about the study, see maps of the proposed trails and to weigh in on the survey.