ELK RAPIDS — Village officials approved the route through Elk Rapids for the coming TART Trail extension between Acme and Charlevoix along the U.S. 31 corridor.

Elk Rapids trustees voted 5-2 Monday to approve the recreational trail route to weave through the Lake Michigan shoreline village both along the lakeshore and various public parks. The decision didn’t come without controversy, though.

The new route will take cyclists north into the village along South Bayshore Drive past the Elk Rapids Day Park to Ottawa Street, then to Oak Street and over to River Street, where cyclists will pass by Veterans Memorial Park and the footbridge to the historic Elk Rapids Island House — home of Elk Rapids District Library.

The route then turns north onto Cedar Street to cross the bridge over Elk River, then follows Harbor Drive to Dexter Street and back to the U.S. 31 corridor.

Village resident Dianne Richter spoke during the online meeting, heavily critical of the route that was eventually adopted. She preferred to direct the new trail down Bridge Street where U.S. Bicycle Route 35 is already designated.

Richter argued safety would be an issue along both South Bayshore Drive and River Street downtown, where the approved route will funnel cyclists.

She said Bridge Street could be beautified as part of the Downtown Development Authority district, making it just as appealing as the parks and public spaces the approved route will skirt alongside.

Charlie Pryde, chairman of the village’s Parks and Recreation Commission, said he has led multiple bicycling groups with up to 30 riders through Elk Rapids and always felt the safest route was the one on the table for consideration.

At least two village trustees did not favor the trail’s village route, though.

Trustee Elaine Glowicki said she did not favor the proposed pathway without offering further comment, while trustee Trisha Perlman said she agreed with safety concerns Richter raised. They cast the dissenting votes.

Barb Mullaly, president pro-tem, said she believed in the professionalism and expertise of the engineers hired to study the route who also made adjustments as public input came in.

Julie Clark, executive director for nonprofit TART Trails, said the Traverse City-to-Charlevoix trail is now known as the Nakwema Trail and construction documents are being drafted.

She said TART’s goal is to consult with landowners along the route through the coming summer months and by autumn have preliminary engineering plans ready for review.

Monday’s decision by the Village Council was key because it helps trail designers know how and where the trail must be routed into Elk Rapids, Clark said.

More details about the trail connection project between TART Trails and Top of Michigan Trails can be found at nakwematrailway.org online.

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