October 22, 2014

Route Authority sets out to improve local recreation

By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

STANDISH — Michigan is home to over 500 miles of rail trails — old railroad beds that have been converted to pathways used for non-motorized recreation.

And if all goes as planned, another 8-mile rail trail could soon be constructed parallel to US-23 from Omer to AuGres.

“They (rail trails) are paths for people to use for recreation such as bicycling or jogging,” said Arenac Heritage Route Authority (AHRA) member Dr. Ronald Schwab. “Having a nice, organized pathway to do that would be good. … It’s another improvement for our community.”

Schwab also added that tourism in the county would increase.

“You have people who actually travel to those places” for biking, hiking and running, Schwab said.

But according to the Curt Hillman, AHRA chairman, a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) estimate for the construction of a ten-foot wide Arenac County trail, which Hillman said would be a hard, possibly paved surface, would cost $2.8 million.

But locally, only 20 percent of those funds would have to be raised, Hillman said.

“What we need to do is raise money for the grant and MDOT will match the rest,” Hillman said.

Hillman is optimistic that the local portion will be less than 20 percent of the $2.8 million, though.

“It seems to me like it could be done for less than that,” Hillman said. “Once we show them that we’re working for that (rail trail), they’re going to start the design process.” He added that once the actual process of designing the trail begins, the cost would likely drop.

However, the AHRA is still looking to raise as much funds as they can for the potential project.

“Hopefully there are some grants out there,” Hillman said.

Whether additional grants can be gained is yet to be seen, but the AHRA is hosting the 5th annual Diamonds, Denim & Camo Depot Dinner Saturday, March 29 to start earning funds for the local match.

The dinner will feature a buffet-style dinner with big game items, including emu meatballs, venison stew, elk tips and carved round of buffalo prepared by television personality “Dixie Dave.” Apple pork loin and several sides, desserts and appetizers will also be available for diners.

Ticket prices for the dinner are $50 per person or $400 for a group of ten. Festivities will include raffles and a silent auction. The event is at the Standish Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Hall in Standish and begins at 5:30 p.m.

For more information or to reserve tickets call 989-718-3021 or 989-846-6560. Tickets can also be purchased at the Standish Historical Depot and Welcome Center prior to the day of the dinner.

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