Lansing extends walkable River Trail
Lansing – — The city of Lansing is growing its network of walkable trails as it aims to attract the kind of young professionals who also are increasingly pedestrian professionals.
In a move Lansing Parks Director Brett Kaschinske said was “all about place making,” the city recently added a nearly 6-mile, $1.8 million south-side connection to the Lansing River Trail. The new extension, funded mostly with federal dollars, runs along a Consumers Energy power-line corridor.
Kaschinske said the addition is the largest single chunk added to the city’s trail system since construction on the River Trail began in the mid-1970s. It makes for more than 20 miles of trails in a city actively working to woo the Millennial generation — the tech-savvy, environmentally conscious generation of which Michigan State University students and recent grads are a part — and catch the national wave of reurbanization.
Millennials make up a generation that likes its bike lanes and trails: A study out last month from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group cited federal data showing the number of trips young people took by bike climbed 27 percent between 2001 and 2009, while trips by car fell 15 percent. The study’s authors predict that’s a lifestyle choice Millennials plan to keep as they age.
The trail extension was important because “we need to do meaningful, important projects that attract people to Lansing,” said Chad Gamble, director of public works for the city.
Though he had no current guesses as to how many people use the trail, Kaschinske said it is the most-used park in the city.
Gamble called the River Trail “the central nervous system of our parks.” In addition to catering to the young-professional types, it adds to the quality of life for families who can walk their kids to a playground and for the health-conscious of any age who can bike or jog, he said.
“We’re not blowing smoke when we say this is sweet,” Gamble said. “It is awesome to really be able to see the city from the River Trail.”
The new south-side extension passes by Davis, Kaynorth and Maguire parks.
The city’s trail system also connects into other trail networks, including the new south-side extension’s connection to the $3 million Sycamore Trail in Delhi Township, which was completed last month.
The city is planning more.
Officials hope to add more than five additional miles of trail: One section would run north along U.S. 127 to Michigan State University’s Spartan Village. Another section would run west into Eaton County and connect to Fine, Fulton and Olds Anderson parks and the Woldumar Nature Center.
Those planned expansions would bring to 26 miles the total length of the city’s trail system.
If those 26 miles were stretched into a straight line, it would nearly connect downtown Lansing to Olivet.