The trail provides an important nonmotorized link from the botanical gardens to Washtenaw County's Parker Mill Park, with connections to the regional Border-to-Border Trail, the local Gallup Park pathway, and beyond.
The trail also provides a safer travel route that parallels but avoids Dixboro Road, a busy Washtenaw County artery with a narrow shoulder inadequate for safe biking or walking. As it makes its way to Parker Mill Park, the two-mile path crosses parts of the botanical gardens, the Radrick Golf Course and the grounds of the U-M Adventure Leadership Program. The project is scheduled to be completed this fall.
When finished, the new trail will also expand on existing nonmotorized connections to U-M and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals, U-M Central and North campuses, Eastern Michigan University and Ypsilanti, Concordia University and Washtenaw County Community College, as well as public transportation to these destinations.
"The Arb and Gardens, the Adventure Leadership Program and Radrick Farms Golf Course are united in valuing the environmental and personal health benefits of being outdoors," said Karen Sikkenga, associate director of Matthaei-Nichols. "And nonmotorized transportation connections to U-M's campus are central to Matthaei Botanical Gardens' strategic goals. Currently more than 140,000 visitors each year carpool, ride a bike or drive a car to get to Matthaei. The new trail will allow them to leave their cars safely behind."
Sikkenga says the idea for the trail came to her as she detoured on her bike through Radrick Golf Course one morning after Dixboro Road temporarily closed for repaving in 2013. But the trail concept isn't new, she added.
"A Dixboro Road trail project had been explored prior to 2005, but it stalled when the various parties couldn't agree on the details," she said.
This time, all the parties agreed. Trail construction caps a multiyear collaboration between the university, state and local agencies, businesses and individuals. The trail travels over land owned by U-M, which granted an easement for the project.
Washtenaw County Parks, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and Michigan Department of Transportation together provided more than $2.5 million for the trail construction. In addition to these grants, more than 125 individuals and businesses contributed nearly $800,000 toward the trail.