TECUMSEH — After at least 20 years of hoping and planning, the Kiwanis Trail Tecumseh Connection is officially open to bicyclists, joggers and strollers.
Officials from the Kiwanis Regional Trail Authority and the city of Tecumseh gathered with some recreation enthusiasts who tolerated the cold weather Saturday morning for a “soft opening” of the new stretch of trail. Tecumseh City Manager Dan Swallow, who is also on the KRTA, said there will be a grand opening in the spring when more work has been completed, such as installing signs, fencing and a board to recognize the more than 250 businesses and individual donors who supported the project, and the weather is warmer.
But for now the new asphalt is open to the public. It runs from Cal Zorn Recreation Center at the corner of Russell Road and Raisin Center Highway, south along the west side of Raisin Center Highway to Ives Road, then west along Ives to the previous terminus of the trail at the corner of Ives and Green Highway.
In a livestream, Swallow said some runners made the trek from Adrian to Tecumseh on the trail first thing Saturday morning.
Ron Miller of Tecumseh was the first on the trail after KRTA chairman Dusty Steele cut the ribbon, which was held by KRTA members Tom Hawkins, supervisor of Raisin Township, and Greg Elliott, Adrian city administrator. Miller jogged down the trail as some of his preparation for the upcoming Traverse City Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.
After returning to the parking lot, Miller said he the new end point at Cal Zorn park is more convenient for people in Tecumseh.
“I think more people will use it,” he said. “This is a great area to start it or end it. The Green Road station is OK, but this is more convenient. This will be a real asset for recreational people, whether running, walking or riding a bike.”
Michelle and Bryan Crandall of Tecumseh brought their dachshund Teddy for a walk on the new trail.
“It’s great. It’s much closer to our house. We can just come down here and walk down to Adrian,” Bryan Crandall said.
The KRTA includes the cities of Adrian and Tecumseh, Raisin and Adrian townships, and the Kiwanis Club of Adrian, which funded the creation of the Kiwanis Trail. Swallow said the Kiwanis clubs of Adrian and Tecumseh were involved in supporting this extension, which was built by Slusarski Excavating and Paving of Adrian.
Swallow said the Lenawee County Road Commission helped with some additional easement to move the trail further away from the road. Hawkins said A.J. Brown, who owns the old gravel pit off Ives Road and Raisin Center Highway, cooperated with the project.
Long term, the city is looking at expanding the parking lot off Raisin Center Highway and establishing a trailhead with restrooms, Swallow said.
Hawkins credited Swallow and Steele with seeing the project through to completion.
“Raised the money, shook the trees, kept things going, diplomatically had to deal with opposition and did it in such a good way,” Hawkins said. “It is wasn’t for those two guys, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Along with the trail near the shoulder of the road, Raisin Center Highway and Ives Road along the new trail were repaved. That stretch of Ives had been gravel.
Swallow said he and parks and recreation director Sarah Gilmore have hired an engineer to look at how to cross Russell Road to get to the existing trail along the old rail bed that runs north between South Union Street and Waskin Drive. The options are to cross at the intersection with Raisin Center/Evans Street and run the trail along the north side of Russell Road or run along the south side of Russell Road to the old rail bed and cross there.
The question is whether it is more safe to cross at the intersection or further down the road.
“We’ll be making some improvements next year,” Swallow said. “In April, we’ll be applying for grants to finish this off and connect it with the other piece.”