“It’s really exciting because the trestles are in great shape,” said Hill of the structures east of Nunica, which would be included in the next phase of the project. “We walked across them. They’re really a fantastic piece of history. They’re about 40 or so feet up in the air, and we’re really excited about running the bike path over the top and preserving a piece of history.”
Hill said the trestles would add a nostalgic feel to the trail and also lessen construction costs for new infrastructure — although exact savings are unknown at this time.
“I look at this as a definite gem if we can incorporate it into the trail,” Hill said. “If we can use them, we don’t have to build bridges to get over the creek. That gets pricey. It makes all the sense in the world to try to utilize them.”
Hill said the trestles were designed for 250-ton locomotives, and would be more than ample to carry bike and pedestrian traffic without much modification. He said the old trestles are “solid as a rock.”
“It’s really a beautiful stretch of countryside there with Crockery Creek,” Hill said. “We’re focusing on the construction project at hand (phase 1, from Fruitport Road to 130th Avenue), but we’re excited about the trestles and what’s possible down the line.”
Phase 1 construction is rolling along and the 3.3-mile section of the trail should be open to nonmotorized traffic in October, according to Hill. The path will eventually connect to the Musketawa Trail near Marne, with the hopes of someday reaching Grand Rapids.
“We’ve walked the site a few times and there haven’t been any major surprises,” Hill said. “Things are running smoothly and we’ve had no major hiccups.”
Wetland overlooks are in progress in the area behind Orchard Market and Lloyd’s Bayou Senior Apartments.
“They wanted to get that cleared out and get the grades established,” Hill said.
Contractors are in the process of laying a gravel base course for the asphalt, which is scheduled to be poured for two weeks beginning in mid-September.
“One of the best things about a separated bike path is that you can put your kids on this thing and you don’t have to navigate driveways,” Hill said. “If you’re a road biker and you like to go fast, you can ride on this and go fast. Road bikers usually ride on the roads because it’s too difficult to navigate driveways, pedestrians and other bikes when you’re going 20-25 mph.”
Hill said the 10-foot-wide path is 2 feet wider than Lakeside Trail.
“That couple more feet will make it more comfortable and more safe,” Hill said.
The $900,000 first phase of the trail project is being funded by a 2004 local bike path millage, state grants, and private and foundation funds.
Phase 1 will include trail-head parking at 144th Avenue.
Plans are for the North Bank Trail to eventually extend 18 miles along the former Grand Trunk Railroad, connecting with the Musketawa Trail east of Coopersville and other regional trails.
The multipurpose path will also connect with Lakeside Trail west of Fruitport Road. That trail extends through the Village of Spring Lake and connects with 26 miles of existing bike paths in Spring Lake Township.