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Group ready to blaze township bike/walking path

October 23, 2013 - Atlas Twp.- For almost a decade Bruce DeGrouchy has been an avid bicyclist.

And has the injuries to prove it.

"I've been hit three times by vehicles locally," said DeGrouchy, a township resident since 1988. "Once on Perry Road, once on Grand Blanc Road and once on M-15. Twice it was a hit and run and while I have some neck problems as a result of the accidents I walked away with only bumps and bruises."

DeGrouchy is just one of a growing number of bicyclists, walkers and runners that are seeking a safe and designated pathway to utilize in the township.

The need for a community biking and walking path has sparked the interest of hundreds locally, reported Paulette Johnson, a township resident for about 40 years.

"It's not just my issue," said Johnson during the Monday township board of trustees meeting. "My concerns are for the safety of the children, healthy living issues, property values for taxpayers. Quality of life for those looking to move into the community."

Johnson said she distributed petitions to eight village businesses last June seeking feedback from residents regarding the future of a walking/bike path in township. She collected the petitions in July and presented the data to the township board on Monday night during the public comments. She reported a total of 358 interested in expanding the Goodrich walking paths in the township as well as support for Atlas Township joining Goodrich in recreation. In addition, residents would support a plan to extend paths to neighboring communities including Grand Blanc and Davison townships.

"A bike-walking path is important to many people," she said. "Consider the downturn in the economy a few years ago—people lost health care and it was a very stressful time for a lot of residents. They need a way to release that negative energy—we have a beautiful community and no way to walk or bike around and enjoy it. A path would be one way to get out in the fresh air and meet their neighbors. It would be a way to get out in the community."

Johnson suggested consider linking a township bike/walking path with Goodrich.

Construction of the 10-foot wide, paved, non-motorized Goodrich pathway bordering Hegel Road west of the Goodrich Country Club to Oaktree Elementary was completed in September 2006. The idea, spearheaded by Goodrich officials, was tossed around for "years and years," but failed for lack of funding. However, the project was revived by Village of Goodrich Administrator Jakki Sidge, who requested consideration for Surface Transportation Program rural funds. Of the $717,000 needed for the project, Goodrich paid approximately $80,070 in matching funds, with Atlas Township chipping in about $30,000.

"Both Flint and Swartz Creek have a bike lane along some of their roads," said DeGrouchy, who offered to lead a committee for the township project. "There's money in the federal transportation budget and the Michigan transportation budget for walking and bike paths. Consider, too, that U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow support such funding. The federal Safe Routes to School Program created by Congress in August 2005 as part of the federal transportation bill could also be considered."

While further engineering studies would be necessary, DeGrouchy and Johnson suggested the path could be extended along M-15 and along Perry Road to hook up with Grand Blanc.

While township officials did not respond to the public comments, a township recreation committee or plan needed to seek such funding currently does not exist.

By a 4-1 vote at the December 2011 township meeting, trustees said no thanks to an opportunity to join a recreation plan offered by Village of Goodrich officials. The village paid planners to create the plan around 2005 and were in the process of making updates. The plan identifies recreation areas and specifies potential areas of expansion and goals for the village. The plan is necessary, said Goodrich Village Administrator Jakki Sidge, to see where the community has been and how to provide recreational services to the area.

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