Who Uses the River Trail?

By: Brian Johnson
By: Brian Johnson

Is Lansing asking everyone to chip in to protect regional assets or is the city shoving another cost onto the entire county to pay for its parks through a new millage? While the recent millage proposal won't happen because the county commissioners chose not to put the proposal on the November ballot, the idea has people thinking. How many people outside Lansing use Lansing's parks and the River Trail?

The River Trial in Lansing provides a 13-mile peaceful path away from cars, roads, and stop lights. People come to run, jog, walk and bike, but where to they come from?

"When I lived in East Lansing I would use the trail a lot. I would drive to campus, and I would run from campus on the River Trial and all the way till it ends," said Jake Davison who lives in Lansing. "I think the county may be in a better position to take care of it than the city is, since the city is asking the county to help out."

One county commissioner thinks they come overwhelmingly from Lansing.

"The only people who came to Tuesday nights meeting (about the millage proposal) and spoke on this proposal, were two representatives of the UAW, to represent the summer seasonal laborers that the City of Lansing hires, and the Lansing chief operating officer that wouldn't even pay this tax," said Steve Dougan, an Ingham County Board of Commissioners member. "Clear and simple this is a request to generate money for the City of Lansing and to respect the fact that the city chooses to use UAW laboring employees to maintain their parks on a summer seasonal basis."

Cameron Hutchinson is from East Lansing, but bikes a 16-mile round trip everyday.

"I like the idea that more money should be put into the trail. It's a nice trail," said Hutchinson. "There's always people using it. I enjoy using it everyday, and to see improvements would always be nice."

Of the 55 people that I spoke to, 19 were from Lansing, the rest were from outside the city limits. The came from East Lansing, Okemos, Holt, Howel, Grand Ledge and others.

"The trails are really beautiful for one thing, and they are a great way for people to get exercise without having to be out in traffic, and so for the most part, they are very safe," said Jean Brailey from Lansing.

There was some horse-trading going on between the Mayor's office and commissioners. Commissioner Dougan didn't see it that way when the Mayor offered to put some of the millage money toward a fourth park.

"The mayor said, if you are willing to go along with this the mayor said he will through in Valhalla Park in Delhi township for you. You know, that kind of negotiation is poor form, as last minute."

Dougan took it as the mayor trying to buy his vote to put the millage on the ballot. The mayor's office tells us this is normal negotiating when trying to get something like this done.

Dougan expect the proposal will not make it on the February ballot.


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  • by Mike Location: East Lansing on Aug 31, 2012 at 07:16 AM
    The surest way to fund this thing is make those who use it, pay for it. Charge them a toll. This trail is more like a "road" than a "park". Roads are paid for by the gas tax. Those who use gas, pay for the roads. Even public transportation charges a fee to ride the bus which also uses the roads. This trail is no different. The city shouldn't even be in the parks and rec. business anyway. The other alternative is sell the parks (including the river trail). Reduce the tax burden accordingly (reduce property tax, income tax, and eliminate the park millage). Once the parks are privately owned, those owners would take care of all the parks needs as any other private private property. They could do as they see fit with the river trail. Currently what we have simply does not work. At the most, Government needs to take care of what is essential services, this does not parks and rec.
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