JACKSON, Mich. — Improvements are coming to the MLK Equality Trail in Jackson.
The first phase of the $1 million project will replace the existing 8-foot-wide asphalt path with a 12-foot-wide concrete path from the King Center to Prospect Street. That will start in 2024. Crews will work to reconstruct the entire equality trail by 2026.
Parks director Kelli Hoover says it’s important to invest in Jackson’s trail system.
“I think that we’re looking at a lot of different things. Not everybody has transportation,” she said. ”This is going to get you to the locations in the city that you need to go, whether it’s work, school or shopping. I think it’s important for our environment. In the future, I think we’re going to see more and more people taking that option to bike to work or walk to work. Have already seen it on a daily basis, seen more people stop using their cars and start walking.”
The MLK Equality Trail is part of the Iron Belle Trail system which will ultimately run from Belle Isle in Detroit all the way to Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula. The trail system’s 791-mile bicycle route and 1,273-mile hiking route are only about two-thirds complete.
Here is an interactive map of the system.
Hoover says Jackson has a lot of people using the trail system whether it’s local residents or people using the longer trails that run across the state.
“We are seeing a lot more people calling to say, ‘Hey, where can I stay in Jackson? Where’s a great place for us to park our bikes?’ That’s exciting to see a multi-use area of the trail get used by people coming from other states to visit our trail system.”
With this investment others want to get involved in enhancing trails in Jackson including the nonprofit group People for the Parks and Trails. Its president, Aaron Dimick, uses the trail every day and says this trail is a huge asset to the community.
“We’re looking at how we can fundraise to do different trail improvements and have that happen alongside when the trail improvements are going to be taking place,” he said. “We’re looking at things like providing more trash cans, bike racks and maintenance stations.”
And reconstructing the trail will provide a safer experience.
“If you’re riding a bike there’s a lot of bumps or even if you’re walking you might have a trip hazard,” he said. “The other thing too, is it’s not exactly a smooth surface for people with disabilities so if you’re in a wheelchair or have trouble getting about his could be not a great surface for you to interact with.”
City officials earmarked $759,000 in federal money for the project. The city’s share would be $222,000.
Even though the work is still two years out, residents can expect to see lighting installed on trail starting in July which was made possible by a Michigan Trust Fund grant through the Department of Natural Resources.
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