Bike Trails to Be Repaired, Now Open for Summer Recreation

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Monday, June 27, 2016, 7:00 am
Alice Dreger

Above: A River Trail bridge near Potter Park Zoo

Just as the summer recreation season hits, the City of East Lansing has received an allocation of $788,863 from the Ingham County Board of Commissioners to repair the asphalt on more than thirteen miles of trails in East Lansing. The money comes from a voter-approved county trails and park millage.

According to the City, East Lansing will use $198,000 “to perform micro-surfacing over 3.47 miles of the 4.8-mile Northern Tier Trail. The funding will also be used to make ADA [disability access] improvements along the trail.”

In advance of the repairs, summer recreation, including biking, has resumed along the county trails. In this bicyclist’s experience, the Interurban Trail is perfectly smooth; the only hazard you may encounter is a mammal of one sort or another scurrying across the path. The Northern Tier Trail has a few hazards, mostly in the shape of bump-ups in the surface, some of which are serious enough to dislodge you if you hit them too fast. The Lansing River Trail requires concentration—it presents you with potholes, slippery bridges, and unpredictable small mammals, including humans new to bicycles—but many riders will find the River Trail well worth the effort.

The Interurban Pathway (named because it goes from East Lansing to Meridian Township) stretches for a couple of miles from Burcham Road, just east of Park Lake Road, to Marsh Road. It’s a convenient way to bike out to the Meridian Farmers Market. The wildflowers and birds along the way are often interesting to riders, as is the occasional sighting of a relatively unusual mammal. (We are pretty sure we saw a mink or a martin along the path last fall.)

The Northern Tier Trail offers a green route from East Lansing’s firehouse on Abbot Road all the way up to State Road. Common sights along the way include various waterfowl including many ducks, hawks, deer, and wildflowers. The trail provides a relatively safe way to get to the soccer complex and the Family Aquatic Center, especially since a traffic light was installed to get you across Chandler Road from the trail to the Aquatic Center.

The River Trail stretches for about seven miles from the west side of MSU’s campus all the way past the Turner-Dodge House in Old Town Lansing. You can pick it up by following the paved path on the north side of Kalamazoo Street just west of Harrison Road. Just after you cross the river, take the turn under the bridge and just follow the path.

My partner and I lived in East Lansing almost ten years before we discovered the River Trail. He texted me one day to exclaim about the discovery while I was away on a work trip. He was so intrigued by it, he ended up taking our five-year-old son all the way to the Lansing fish ladder and back—a ride of about fifteen miles in total. (The kid slept very well that night.)

The River Trail is quite rural in parts, and quite urban in others. To this rider, that is part of the attraction (once you get past the stinky bit caused by East Lansing’s waste treatment plant). You can use the trail to get to the Potter Park Zoo, the Olds Museum, Impression 5 Science Museum, the Riverwalk Theatre, downtown Lansing, Lansing Community College, the Lansing City Market, Old Town, and finally the Turner-Dodge House. A pleasant weekend outing includes biking the trail and breaking for lunch and shopping in Old Town before returning.

One off-shoot of the River Trail takes you through marsh and deep woods to Hawk Island Park. A favorite activity of our family is to bike there and then rent a paddle boat to tootle around the lake. (Bring a sunhat, a driver’s license, and a few dollars, if you want to rent a boat.)

Another off-shoot of the River Trail will take you to the big BWL plant that is home to “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” the three big smoke stacks you can see from all around town. This is a more urban view of life, but if you’re a fan of industrial architecture, as I am, it’s worth the diversion.

Here are some photos from a trip last Friday along the River Trail.

A typical view of people biking and fishing along the River Trail, with kayakers on the river:

Old Town in Lansing, at the other end of the River Trail:

A bit of downtown Lansing as seen from the River Trail:

The worst pothole along the River Trail (hopefully to be fixed soon):

The Turner-Dodge House, near the very end of the River Trail:
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