NTN trail extension plan has merit but there are concerns

Although it’s not quite a done deal just yet, Marquette Township is clearly making progress on the establishment of a half-mile non-motorized pathway that would connect a Noquemanon Trail Network trail from where its existing trail ends at Schwemwood Park to the proposed U.S. 41 underpass tunnel.

Last week, the township board agreed to move forward with the planning and legal review of the proposed trail that would run along the northern border of the park.

NTN, township officials confirmed, is putting its money where its mouth is, agreeing to pony up the estimated $22,000 cost of construction of the proposed 27-inch-wide trail, which would be open to all non-motorized use, and not exclusive to bikers.

In addition, NTN will pay maintenance fees plus rebuild and/or stabilize a pedestrian bridge along the way.

From where we sit, it’s apparent township officials generally like all of the above, and so do we. That said, questions raised by township Supervisor Lyn Durant and others regarding how walking pedestrians and bikers will interact on the trail should be resolved to the extent they can be resolved, before project work starts.

Durant is rightly concerned about bikers basically taking the trail over.

In part, in a Mining Journal story on the matter, she said, “That is obviously not going to be a walking trail. It’s 27 inches, a lot of the riders in my experience — and I am not trying to make anybody mad — they want those trails for themselves and I don’t think anyone is going to be able to walk on those trails. It becomes a bike trail, a bike park.”

While a wider trail combined with a good public education campaign may go a long way in alleviating concerns, setting up an exclusive biking trail is clearly not the township board’s intention.

The idea has a lot of merit but we believe getting these concerns addressed before construction starts is essential.