Summer Plans to Fill Key Gap in Border to Border Trail

A group of people hiking through the woods.
Photo from pexels.

The Border to Border Trail is so well loved and well-trodden by so many that it can be easy to forget that it isn’t actually finished. But the goal of reaching all 44 miles of trails from east to west will get one major step closer this summer with the addition of a new official section through the Huron River’s steep, canopy-covered slopes as the river meanders its way from Barton Pond down towards the Argo Dam.

The Ann Arbor City Council recently unanimously approved a resolution to construct a tunnel underneath the train tracks that run through the green spaces. The only catch is that there will be two phases to the project. This is because the adjacent Barton Pond dam is going to also see work done this summer.

“It’s the first phase of a large project that is going to connect the Barton Nature Area and Bandemer Park,” City Councilor Dharma Akmon (Democrat – Ward 4) said. “This first part is going to be 1.2 miles long. The second phase of this extension is going to be the tunnel.”

A map of the project. Image credit SME-USA.
A map of the project. Image credit SME-USA.

Infrequent users of the trail might be surprised by the incomplete nature of the Border to Border trail. But part of the current trail is the result of paths beaten down by joggers and bike riders who have naturally formed their own paths when confronted with an incomplete park path, often along roads or sidewalks. By filling in this gap in the middle of the pathway, safety and ease of use should improve.

“I think we have 38 miles under construction of 44 miles planned,” to connect the whole county, Washtenaw County Parks Commission Project Manager Peter Sanderson said. “So we’re getting pretty close. The ones that are remaining are a small gap between Dexter and Chelsea, which we are planning on going on the engineering of that project this year, with construction going over the next two years. And north of Chelsea, we have construction on Boyce Road up to M-52.”

The $1,287,381 budget is being split in three according to Washtenaw County Treasurer Catherine McClary. The costs will be split between the City of Ann Arbor, the Huron Waterloo Pathways initiative and the Washtenaw County Parks Commission.

“The Border-to-Border Trail is an amenity that improves quality of life throughout Washtenaw County. Linking our parks, the Huron River, job centers, and communities together are all things that make the community a desirable place to live and helps employers attract top-tier talent,” McClary said in an email. “Furthermore, there is no safe crossing for bicyclists and pedestrians at North Main Street in Ann Arbor at M-14. Phase 2 of this project will provide a safe and legal crossing of the MDOT [and] Amtrak railroad and helps solve a long-standing safety issue in our community. Lastly, completion of the Border-to-Border Trail is one of the many steps that we are taking as a community to reduce emissions and improve climate quality.”

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Drew Saunders is a freelance business and environmental journalist who grew up just outside of Ann Arbor. He covers local business developments, embraces his foodie side with reviews restaurants, obsesses over Michigan's environmental state, loves movies, and feels spoiled by the music he gets to review for Ann Arbor!