Traverse City News and Events

Work To Begin On Final Boardman Lake Trail Stretch; More Trail Projects Underway

By Beth Milligan | April 13, 2021

Traverse City commissioners Monday approved a contract for just over $4.4 million with Elmer’s Crane and Dozer to finish the last segment of the Boardman Lake Trail, a section stretching from NMC’s University Center to Medalie Park that will include a boardwalk across the Boardman Lake cove and two bridges that will complete the five-mile loop. Boardman Lake is one of several TART Trails projects taking place across the region, with work also planned for the trail along Parsons Road, the Tenth Street trailhead, and the Leelanau Trail.

Elmer’s was the low bidder of two companies that submitted proposals to finish the Boardman Lake Trail at $4.4 million – a figure that was 10 percent over budget. The city had the option to shave close to $300,000 off the contract price tag by using a cheaper kind of wood on the boardwalk and bridges – a pressure-treated yellow pine decking – instead of the Ipe (Brazilian walnut) wood originally planned. However, staff noted that using yellow pine comes with a tradeoff: Though cheaper to install upfront, it requires significantly more maintenance and has a shorter lifespan than Ipe. According to TART Trails Executive Director Julie Clark, yellow pine tends to become slippery in shaded areas and bow in areas exposed to sunlight.

“It warps and pops and splinters everywhere,” she tells The Ticker. “It takes significantly more regular maintenance.” Clark told city commissioners that the isolated location of the boardwalk and bridges in the middle of Boardman Lake would make regular maintenance challenging. “These are very difficult areas to access,” she said, adding that the remote location was why the last segment of the loop is the most expensive to complete. “It’s the trickiest part to be done.”

City Commissioner Tim Werner agreed that having to regularly repair wood in the middle of Boardman Lake wasn’t a realistic option. “We’re working in the lake on that lumber, and I just don’t see that happening in the future,” he said. Werner also said the Boardman Lake Trail attracts all types of users – from parents with strollers to individuals using wheelchairs or walkers to cross-town bike commuters – and that using the safest, highest quality wood on the remote trail segment was key. City Commissioner Christie Minervini agreed the Ipe wood was worth the higher investment.

City Manager Marty Colburn said he spoke with county officials and that funding to cover the roughly $442,000 shortfall to finish the loop is available in the Boardman Lake Avenue brownfield plan. That plan – which was originally intended to fund a new road connecting Fourteenth Street to Eighth Street – was later redirected to cover other projects, including the Boardman Lake Trail, once the city abandoned plans for the new road. The Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is expected to meet next week to vote on increasing brownfield funding to cover the trail project shortfall. City commissioners voted 5-1 Monday to approve the Elmer’s contract contingent on a BRA vote to approve additional funds. Mayor Jim Carruthers was absent from Monday’s meeting, while Commissioner Brian McGillivary was the sole ‘no’ vote. McGillivary, who said he would’ve voted ‘yes’ if his vote would’ve changed the outcome of the decision, said he supported completing the Boardman Lake Trail but had concerns about ballooning costs.

Elmer’s is expected to begin work on the final trail segment this summer, with the project likely to be completed either late this fall or next spring. In addition to the boardwalk and bridges, the project includes a new trail “node” near Sixteenth Street and Lake Ridge Drive that will include an overlook, stairs, sidewalk, and a fishing dock. Elmer’s is also preparing to finish work it began last summer on the roughly $2 million segment of the Boardman Lake Trail stretching from Fourteenth Street to NMC’s University Center (pictured). The company will soon begin paving that segment, with the trail likely opening to the public this summer. Meanwhile, a trail “spur” that was once planned to lead up from the University Center to the South Airport and Cass Road intersection has been dropped from the project for cost and logistical reasons. Clark says she’s hopeful it could be revisited in the future.

Elmer’s is also the contractor for a TART Trails project that kicked off Monday on Parsons Road between Airport Access and Three Mile roads. The base is failing in the 30-year-old trail segment, which is roughly a mile long, and is at the end of its lifespan. The trail is being widened by two feet and completely reconstructed. A landscaping installation and multifunctional sculpture by Frankfort artist Steve Kline is also planned. Trail users will be detoured to Indian Trail Boulevard during construction, which is expected to be finished by April 23. “We’re excited that it will be finished before the peak season,” Clark says.

Improvements are also planned for the Tenth Street trailhead near Oryana and for the Leelanau Trail stretching between Traverse City and Suttons Bay. Design firm Inhabitect began earth moving and landscaping work at the Tenth Street trailhead Monday as part of a redesign that will include new landscape design, amenity enhancements, and a public art sculpture from area artist Brian Ferriby. The trailhead is closed this week while work is underway, with Boardman Lake Trail access available via Twelfth Street. Finally, Clark says TART Trails will be launching a new trailhead on the Leelanau Trail this summer at Shady Lane. “It will provide additional access and have a small parking lot, much like Cherry Bend Road,” she says.

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