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Grant helps connect Matthaei to Southeast MI County trail system

By Joe Mooney

View of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens conservatory from the perennial garden. Photo courtesy Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum.
A hiking and biking trail connecting the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens with the regional border-to-border trail and beyond is one step closer, thanks to a Local Area Program grant of nearly $730,000 to Ann Arbor Charter Township from Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.


This recreational trail will provide a critical nonmotorized link from U-M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens to Washtenaw County’s Parker Mill Park, with connections to the state’s Iron Belle Trail, the regional Border-to-Border Trail, and the local Gallup Park Pathway, which is also part of the Border-to-Border Trail.


“The Gardens and Arboretum, along with the Radrick Challenge Program and Radrick Farms Golf Course, lead the way in endorsing and furthering sustainability as a goal,” says Karen Sikkenga, associate director of Matthaei-Nichols. “Nonmotorized transportation connections to Central and North Campus are central to Matthaei Botanical Gardens’ strategic goals.”


According to Sikkenga, currently more than 140,000 visitors each year carpool, ride a bike or drive a car to get to Matthaei, and the new trail will allow them to leave their cars safely behind.

Beyond sustainability, the trail “is another link in a chain of accessibility options to the botanical gardens and the area for everyone,” she said. “And it will serve residents in the densest part of Ann Arbor Township and provide a critical link for the region’s extensive trail system and public transportation.”


The trail also expands on existing nonmotorized connections to U-M and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals, U-M’s Central and North Campuses, Eastern Michigan University and Ypsilanti, Concordia University and Washtenaw County Community College, as well as public transportation to these destinations.


Diana McKnight Morton, vice chair of the Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees, says she’s excited about a trail that gives access to areas that are often difficult to get to other than by car.


“Once this trail is in place, I believe people will utilize it beyond our expectations,” she said.

The recreational trail will provide a link from U-M's Matthaei Botanical Gardens to Washtenaw County's Parker Mill Park.

The recreational trail will provide a link from U-M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens to Washtenaw County’s Parker Mill Park.


The shared-use trail is located entirely on U-M land. The university has donated an easement for the project and provided valuable support for the grant application. The two-mile trail will run near Dixboro Road, a busy artery in Washtenaw County with a right of way that is inadequate for safe nonmotorized roadside passage.


This trail has been a priority in Washtenaw County’s Master Plan since 2002 and Washtenaw County Parks provided a $250,000 Connecting Communities grant for the project.


“With this generous MDOT grant from SEMCOG, Washtenaw County’s grant and a state-level MDOT grant of $1,174,000, our township has been awarded more than $2,150,000 in grant funding for this important project,” said Ann Arbor Township supervisor Michael Moran.


In addition to these grants, more than 125 individuals and businesses have contributed over $250,000 toward the project.


“We are delighted to work collaboratively with so many others in the community to help make this trail a reality,” said Bob Grese, director of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. “We see the trail as a key part of our goal of helping people decompress and connect with nature.”


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