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St. Clair County trail undergoes accessibility upgrades

July 14th, 2023 Back to Browse Stories

A Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Trails Maintenance Fund grant is helping East China Township resurface its portion of the Bridge to Bay Trail and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Maintaining our public parks and trails isn’t the most popular type of work to fund, but it’s crucial to ensuring all southeast Michigan residents have access to enjoy the outdoors.  

The Community Foundation has a long history of stepping into this funding gap to prioritize support for the long-term maintenance of greenways and blueways that enhance the quality of life in our region.   

Starting in 2001, the GreenWays Initiative raised $33 million in foundation and private contributions and leveraged over $125 million in matching investments to help more than 80 municipalities develop, finance and construct over 100 miles of interconnected greenways.  

Building on the work of the GreenWays Initiative, The Great Lakes Way ®  is helping to create, connect, and support 160 miles of greenways and 156 miles of coastal blueways from Toledo to Port Huron.    

The permanently endowed Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Trails Maintenance Fund at the Community Foundation ensures the work of the GreenWays Initiative and The Great Lakes Way continues to benefit southeast Michigan in perpetuity. When a trail or greenway is washed out, damaged, or otherwise unavailable for recreation, the fund can provide grants to help repair or upgrade it — a perfect example of the importance of endowment in carrying on the mission of conservation.  

 A recent grant from the fund is helping East China Township resurface its portion of the Bridge to Bay Trail and ensure it complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.   

The Bridge to Bay Trail extends along 50 miles of shoreline in St. Clair County, down to the border of Macomb County, including a seven-mile strip in East China Township. The work at East China Township Park will include resurfacing the trail to eliminate cracks and dips, and improving the ramps to three footbridges.  

“It used to be you’d get to the end of the trail and then you have to kind of get up to get onto the bridge,” East China Township Manager Cynthia Paparelli says. “It just wasn’t helpful for a lot of people who had mobility issues — not only wheelchairs, but even tripping hazards. So, we’re getting that evened out.” 

Paparelli says East China Township Park and the Bridge to Bay Trail that runs through it are vital to the community’s identity and well-being.  

“Having this trail is a bragging point for the township,” Paparelli says. “We don’t have much as far as restaurants and businesses. What draws people is we’ve got a sledding hill, we’ve got the trail, pickleball courts, multiple playscape pavilions.  

“From the beginner trail rider to the most advanced, anyone can ride on our trail,” Paparelli says. “There’s just one small crossing across the road, but the rest is very nature-based. It’s used extensively, every day. Even in the wintertime, we try and keep it safe and clear.” 

This story first appeared in the Summer 2023 REPORT Newsletter