Rail trail rebuild project draws near

April 28, 2015
A view along the trail last fall.

A view along the trail last fall.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — An ambitious $4.5 million project to rebuild the 22-mile William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail begins this summer.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) opens bids on the project this Friday, May 1, said Hart City Manager Stan Rickard.

The project entails re-paving the entire trail, widening it from 8 feet to 10 feet across. Work crews will tackle the project in three approximate eight-mile sections, beginning at the south end, officials said. The first section will go from Montague to Rothbury; the second portion will extend from Rothbury to Shelby; and the final section will go from Shelby to Hart. Overlooks, trestle bridges and the parking area in Hart will also be refurbished.

The bulk of the project’s funding comes from federal and state trail grants totaling $3,257,800, which is 73 percent of the total cost. State general funds chip in $1 million, which is 23 percent; and local funds account for $180,000, which is 4 percent.

The 25-year-old trail was the vision of its now namesake, William Field, who passed away in 2005. An asparagus and cherry farmer, Field was the unstoppable force behind what is Michigan’s first paved trail. The trail originally was part of the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad built in 1872, and then became part of the C&O Railroad, which abandoned the line in 1982. Field began his unrelenting efforts in 1982 to convert the passage into a recreational trail, despite being met with strong opposition. He spent $175,000 of his own money to purchase the 22-mile strip of land and then donated it to the state. His perseverance finally paid off in 1989 when the first 11 miles of the trail were completed and opened for the public to enjoy.

Officials said the new pavement will be much more durable than the current surface to accommodate snowmobile users and also to prevent cracking from root growth underneath it. The basic plan is to “crush it; grate it out; and re-pave it,” said Annamarie Bauer of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The route extended in 2003 into Whitehall via the White Lake Pathway. There has also been a recent effort to eventually extend the passage north into Pentwater.


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