August 13, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Paint Creek Trail's enthusiasts may soon find themselves venturing into Oxford, if the links chiseled out at a meeting last week can connect the Paint Creek to the Polly Ann Trail.
Currently the Paint Creek Trail ends at Atwater Commons in the village of Lake Orion.
The Polly Ann Trail extends from Burdick St. in downtown Oxford, crosses Drahner Rd., crosses Indianwood and ends near the Waldon and Joslyn intersection in Orion Township. There are several land points for a potential connection.
Bringing the two together could be made possible by the brainpower at the Lake Orion Wayfinding & Trail Connection Forum held on August 6.
Representatives from the villages of Lake Orion and Oxford, Orion and Oxford Townships, Paint Creek Trail and Polly Ann Trail council members, Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority (DDA) officials, and planners from the Michigan Department of Transportation brought suggestions along with members of the public and facilitator Kristen Wiltfang, a senior planner with Oakland County Economic Development and Affairs.
"We would work with the township and property owners to identify a route that would make a connection up to Drahner Rd.," Wiltfang said. "The connecting pathway would go on the north side of Drahner over to the Polly Ann Trail, west of Pontiac Street."
This would link the two townships together for non-vehicle commuters, requiring work, easement acquirement and both communities applying to the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant.
"Lake Orion is a little further ahead than we are," Oxford Township Treasurer Joe Ferrari said. "They only have a little bit of connection to work on—they don't need as much work as we do— but I'd still like to partner together to get both grants down."
The most challenging piece for Oxford Township is to acquire an easement along the old railroad right of way on the east side of M-24 extending from the Golden Nugget area to Indian Lake Rd.
Orion Township has an existing path over Indian Lake Rd. on the historical railway bridge. The path ends just before the Oxford Hills Golf Club—so that's where Oxford Township comes in.
Oxford officials have been in negotiation with Bill Rzadko, owner of the old railroad right of way, since March, but have not seen a price or determined if Rzadko is interested in making a deal.
An easement along the right of way is the most efficient connection between Oxford and Orion, Ferrari said, but a potential trail along Glaspie could be researched.
Lake Orion's piece
As for Lake Orion, a downtown connection from the end of the Paint Creek Trail at Atwater Commons must be established to direct commuters onward.
The forum developed two possible downtown Lake Orion routes to accomplish this.
The more favored route extends straight off the trail, goes between Atwater Commons and the Newton Meadows condos and across Atwater St. to the west side of the future fire department at 240 Atwater. This would give a straight shot to Meeks Park.
Once over the bridge and through Meeks the trail would come out by the Orion Art Center and head north up Anderson St. to Elizabeth. There the trail would connect to the old railway path after the bridge at Indian Lake, if an easement was acquired.
If Oxford cannot fit their piece to the puzzle, Lake Orion's connection—instead of taking Elizabeth to Indian Lake—could take Elizabeth across M-24 and hook up to Indianwood Rd. where another trail extension would be needed.
Another possible downtown Lake Orion connection would require easements from the Lake Orion Lumber Co., which LO Department of Public Works Director Jeff Sears said might be more feasible. DDA Director Suzanne Perrault said might be more expensive, though.
Trail ideas came from not only members at the forum but picked from an online trail users survey available on both the Polly Ann and Paint Creek trail websites, pollyanntrailway.org/ and paintcreektrail.org/
More than 150 people filled out the survey, 17 percent of users were from Orion Township and four percent from Oxford Township, Wiltfang said.
The rest were from surrounding communities interested in entering Lake Orion and Oxford, she said. The survey will be available until August 15.
Forum participants also discussed the possibility of making the trail connector equestrian accessible. "Maybe there's a picket line where riders could tie horses up, or one of the parks, like Children's or Meek's, could somehow become equestrian friendly," Wiltfang suggested.
Wayfinding and amenities
Walkers, runners, hikers, bikers, people using wheel chairs and equestrians (in limited areas) are all permitted to use the trail.
Therefore, amenities must be suitable for each user type.
Participants discussed way-finding signs, and the possibility of progressive signs which would give more direction as users approached popular locations. Street crossing signals would have to be placed not only at pedestrian height, but also at heights suitable for bikers and equestrians.
Wiltfang also explained urban markings that are imprinted into pavement—such as the Paint Creek and Polly Ann trail logo—to let cyclists know they are headed in the right direction.
Different road crossing styles are also available, such as the Hawk Beacon—a pedestrian-only push stop signal, or pedestrian refuge island which allows trail users to cross one half of the street at a time.
Cycling is the new golf, Wiltfang said, and therefore a complete-roads sharing aspect needs to be addressed with a bike lane or bike sharrows which designates an area for cyclists to share the road with motorists.
Oakland County planners will summarize possible trails and amenities and deliver a feasibility report to the DDA in September outlining the best options.
The TAP grant, which would fund a ballpark figure of $250,000, deadline is in April 2015. The DDA would match the grant with funds set aside over the last several years, Perrault said.