By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Bike riders, runners and dog walkers gathered in anticipation for the grand opening of the Rouge River Gateway trail extension Nov. 17.
The quarter-mile extension allows users to continue their route behind Andiamo, 21400 Michigan Ave. instead of along Michigan Avenue.
An elevated platform is now in place behind the restaurant allowing runners and bike riders to continue along the wooded tree line.
“This is my first time riding the trail and it’s much better and peaceful compared to Michigan Avenue,” bike rider Erik Stewart said. “I’m excited to use the trail during my weekly bike rides.”
Since the 2.16-mile
paved trail was created in 2005, thousands of walkers and bicyclists have used the route. It connects with the bike path in Hines Park north of Ford Road, and stretches 19 miles to Northville.
“I use the trail to walk my dogs and bike ride about two times a month, but that number will go up because of the extension,” Dearborn resident Tracy Balazy said. “I help walk dogs from the Dearborn Animal Shelter here every other Sunday so the trail extension is awesome for us.”
In total, the project had a $1.6 million cost, with two grants given to the city from Michigan Department of Transportation at $502,000 and Michigan Department of Natural Resources at $280,000.
“We want to make Ford Field a hub for pedestrians and trail users,” Recreation & Parks Director Gregory Orner said. “They have access to bathrooms and parking available along with the park and trail.”
The trail winds through natural areas on the banks of the Rouge River to the Dearborn Historical Museum, downtown west Dearborn and Ford Field Park. It also runs through the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford College campuses, Henry Ford Estate and Environmental Interpretive Center.
“We’ve always known we’ve wanted to do this,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said. “This trail is a big improvement and now provides safety for users and especially students at the nearby schools.”
Healthy Dearborn Project Manager Sara Gleicher hopes the trail extension will help promote physical activity in the community.
“I’m excited to see if there will be an increase in the walking and biking culture here,” she said. “The extension is a huge stop in the direction of the vision to connect with additional trails past Northville in the future.”
Visitors pass natural areas including the Rouge River Bird Observatory and a 300-acre mixed-habitat Environmental Study Area featuring one of the few remaining beech-maple climax forests in southeast Michigan.
More than 250 species of birds have been spotted in the observatory, the longest-running full-time urban bird research station in North America.
There are two pedestrian bridges included along the route in Dearborn.
The trail system, open daily from dawn to dusk, includes land owned by the city and Wayne County.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])