Downriver Linked Greenways celebrates, looks to the future

The quality of life Downriver just got better.  At least that’s what people were saying as they attended the Downriver Linked Greenways’, “Trail Triumphs” presentation at the Flat Rock Community Center on Jan. 22.  And it was more than just sayin’.  They were showing.

The Greenways event brought together civic and business leaders, environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts, and members of the Beaumont Health Care system in a mini-expo program to celebrate the progress made in the growing network of land and water trails Downriver since 1998, and to announce future recreational enhancements to the more than 100 miles of blueways and greenways in our corner of southeastern Michigan. 

The Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative began in 1998 at a meeting of mayors and government officials called by the late State Representative George Mans. Rockwood mayor

Dan Guzzi was in attendance and recalls, “It was an initial visioning meeting where plans from other states with extensive outdoor networking plans were presented.  It was like building Disneyland, except the question was ‘how are we going to pay for this?’”  

The following year, a Downriver Summit, hosted by Congressman John D. Dingell helped to formulate the community-driven regional effort to coordinate non-motorized transportation like biking, walking, hiking, and kayaking in the Downriver area.  Eventually, the state of Michigan approved a five percent allocation for non-motorized multi-use trails from the Department of Transportation funds given to counties and municipalities.

Anita Twardesky, President of the Downriver Linked Greenways said,” We have a great community Downriver and are very fortunate to have so many parks, hiking and biking trails, rivers, and other waterways.  This gathering today acknowledges what an asset we have and furthers the vision to make Downriver a statewide tourist destination.

“The communities, nonprofits, businesses, and health care community understand the importance of connectivity and partnership moving ahead.”

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-U.S. 12th District), supported the collaborative vision in saying, “Every day, John (former U.S. Congressman John D. Dingell) asks me ‘what have you done for the Wildlife Refuge today?’  “The water connects us.

“I grew up in St. Clair, Michigan and fished in the river, swam in the river.  The water connects us. And the trails connect us to the water. By working together, we can attract new businesses, celebrate our Downriver heritage, and improve the quality of life for all our citizens.” 

“Yes, by working together, you can get something done.”

 At the confab, Twardesky also announced a partnership with the Friends of the Detroit River,

represented by David Howell, Chairman of FDR, and owner of Total Runner to further advance opportunities for outdoor recreation.  Additional partners in the trail network include the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Iron Belle Trail, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Ralph C. Wilson Jr Design and Access Funds, Riverside Kayak Connection, Michigan Sea Grant, Wayne County Parks, Downriver municipalities, and Beaumont Health.

The highlight of the meeting was the unveiling of eleven Downriver Linked Greenways kiosks, road decals, and signage markers that will be placed along the trails from Rockwood to Riverview to River Rouge, and parts in between.  Many of the signs will not only provide direction, but also create places that reflect the heritage and unique culture of Downriver. 

The expansion of the Downriver Linked Greenways includes linkage to the Iron Belle Trail.  While the Iron Belle may conjure images of Rosie the Riveter or your favorite WWF wrestler, the origin of the name is less prosaic.  It’s the longest state designated trail in the United States, stretching from Belle Isle to Ironwood, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. 

More than 1,273 miles of multi-use trails along the eastern side of the state, traversing the northern shore of Lake Michigan along the Wisconsin border make up the bicycle route, with 791 miles of hiking trails cutting across the Lower Peninsula and traversing the Lake Superior shoreline. 

Also at the program, Beaumont Health produced a video promoting the social, emotional, and cognitive benefits of an active lifestyle and healthy eating.  Besides telling the story of 86 -year –old Trenton resident, Norma Baker who had quadruple bypass open heart surgery on her 80th birthday, the film showcases the Downriver Linked Greenways. 

And to further spark motivation and wanderlust, SEMCOG announced a new virtual Southeast Michigan Trail Explorer where you can check out your route and points along both biking and hiking trails Downriver, using Terrain 360.

But just don’t take anyone’s word for it.   Get out there, go see for yourself.  Your quality of life just got better.

If you would like to see Beaumont’s video on their Get Walking/Downriver Greenways, go to youtube.com/watch?v=n5uhdBzSOO4

To view SEMCOG’s site, go to semcog.org  “Southeast Michigan Trail Explorer.”

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