Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 29, 2013

Land swap could lead to trail upgrade

By BRIAN McGILLIVARY bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

— TRAVERSE CITY — A proposed land swap could lead to improvements for a dark and muddy downtown trail along the north side of the Boardman River.

Traverse City Light & Power owns the stretch of land on the north bank of the river between Union Street and the bridge at West Front Street. The city-owned utility board gave an informal approval to swapping the land to the city in exchange for three small, city-owned parcels near two electrical substations.

City officials believe the swap will speed along a proposed pedestrian bridge across the river and an upgrade of a much-used but barely maintained trail.

“All that Light & Power does is throw down wood chips once in a while,” said Bryan Crough, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. “The transfer will make it easier for us to make improvements and maintain the trail.”

The DDA proposes to build a pedestrian bridge over the river at the end of Pine Street, adjacent to J & S Hamburg restaurant, to connect the warehouse district with the downtown. The DDA included the bridge among its capital improvement projects for next year.

City Planner Russ Soyring said the current trail deserves an upgrade and once the Hotel Indigo opens in the warehouse district it’s expected that trail activity will grow. The city made some improvements years ago with TCL&P but most of the trail now is mud and the bank is overgrown.

The city has no definite plans for the trail, but improvements likely would include new trail surface, bank stabilization, rain gardens for parking lot run-off, and some low-level lighting, Soyring said.

Traverse City Light & Power obtained the river bank when it purchased land for an electrical substation on Hall Street but has no use for the property, said Tim Arends, interim executive director for TCL&P. The utility will retain ownership of the fish weir on the river, which it leases to the state.

The three city parcels TCL&P will receive are adjacent to substations on Barlow Street and in the city’s industrial park. The parcels already have electric distribution lines running over and beneath them, Arends said. Obtaining the property will allow for future expansion of the substations.

City Manager Ben Bifoss wants the swap completed before he retires June 28. He expects to present it to the city commission in May.

“The land deals have been out there literally for years. I just asked to clear them up and get them off the table,” Bifoss said.