Laketown Township introduced its shared-use path system more than 20 years ago, has expanded it to more than 10 miles and is planning to add more next year. The asphalt and concrete paths are popular with young and old, pedestrians and pedalers, people and pets.
“I do believe that the shared-use paths are incredibly important to our township to provide a safe alternative means of traversing through very scenic areas of our township either on foot or on bicycle,” said Jeremy Van Hoven, chairperson of the Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission. “For the parks commission, it’s not just parks, it’s also recreation and I cannot think of a much better way to explore on two wheels.”
Township Manager Al Meshkin was instrumental in the development of the bike paths.
“I’m very pleased to see the number of people using the paths and the different age groups. The other day I saw a grandpa walking his dog while his 4-year-old granddaughter rode her bike with him,” Meshkin said.
The first major nonmotorized trail was a 4.3-mile-long, 8-foot-wide bituminous path on the north side of 147th Avenue. It was completed in June 2002 thanks to funds from the township and the Michigan Department of Transportation.
That stretch took about 10 years from when the idea was conceived to when it was completed.
A key to this path, according to documents, was linking safe, off-road walking and bicycling in the most densely populated portion of the township to get to Wolters Woods Park, 6281 147th Ave., and Sanctuary Woods Park, 4750 66th St. Both have bike racks so you can stop, take a break, use the restrooms or walk the recreational trails.
The second major path opened in 2010, reaching 6.1 miles to link the Saugatuck Township trail at 64th Street and Blue Star Highway to the existing paths and Holland city trails to the north. This path is 10 feet wide and made of concrete, a more durable surface than asphalt.
A special concrete on a section along 64th Street near Island Lake Road is porous to let water seep through to the roots of the large tree next to the path.
This north-south route has eight wooden bridges. They are maintained by the township – Brett Grams of township facilities operations has recently been replacing splintering and broken boards. Earlier this year, he replaced railings.
Grams and crews from Heavener Property Service of Saugatuck work throughout the year to keep the paths clean. In 2022, the township purchased a spinning brush that fits on its utility vehicle and clears the gravel and dirt of the pavement.
Heavener and Grams trim brush and branches that hinder visibility of cause safety issues.
Throwing some curves
All the township paths are pretty straight, just some minor curves around trees, but one of the most interesting and fun section is the about one mile between 138th and 140th avenues – it twists and turns through trees. The I-196 expressway is to the east.
The land is owned by the State of Michigan which granted the township an easement to give the path a little twist or two, making it more scenic, according to Meshkin.
Just a heads-up: If you’re southbound in the curves, there’s a temptation to turn on the speed, but resist. The visibility is limited and you might not see a pedestrian coming your way.
The township’s shared-use paths offer great views of township properties, including:
- Ponds along the east side of Beeline Road between 140th and 142nd avenues. You can look over the water and even see turtles below.
- 64th Street. This road was once part of the West Michigan Pike, a route set up about 100 years ago to get drivers up and down the Lake Michigan coast. The north portion of the paths offer you a view of the former Windmill Gas Station that was built in the early 20th Century complete with windmill and blades. Because it was at the end of 64th Street, it was struck several times, finally resulting in it being demolished. The storage units now there have a mural commemorating the local landmark.
- A bench on 147th Avenue just east of 66th Avenue. This is on private property but it’s worth a stop for photos.
“I use the shared-use paths quite regularly for a nice leisurely bike ride mostly on the section along Beeline Road,” said Van Hoven “It’s a great way to travel and enjoy the scenery. I’m so glad that it’s another great way to explore the wonderful township that I love to live in.”
A future multi-use path site is on Blue Star Highway. The project is just less than a mile long on the south side of the road from the Shangrai-La Mobile Home Community, 6180 Blue Star Highway, to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s park-and-ride site at Exit 41 of I-196.
Brush along the route was cleared this spring in anticipation of path construction, but the bids came in 30 percent above what was expected. The township plans to rebid in the fall with a new completion date in 2024.
The construction of this shared use path will help connect a recreationally and infrastructurally underserved area of the township with transportation options and an area-wide path system.
The path links the 66-site mobile home community with the ride-share lot along the expressway so residents could have easier access to transportation.
The long-term plan for the Blue Star path is to eventually link with that 64th Street path and the Saugatuck Township portion of the Blue Star Trail, a 20-mile paved non-motorized path between Saugatuck and South Haven.
There are no township shared-use paths east of I-196 where this project is located.
“The next addition to the trails reaching from the expressway at Exit 41 along Blue Star Highway to Shangrai-la will be an excellent way to benefit an underserved area of our township,” said Van Hoven.
He sees other shared-use paths in the future.
“I would love to see future extensions along 138th Avenue to Shore Acres and also along 142nd to the beach park,” he said, noting that 142nd Avenue could have some logistical challenges due to proximity of homes to the street and critical dune area.
Dos and Don’ts
The shared-use paths have some rules. According to township ordinances, Article V Secs. 32-136-32-151:
Not allowed on a path: Moped, motorcycle, snowmobile, or any type of motor vehicle; horses and all hoofed animals.
Allowed includes: Bicycles, tricycles, strollers, roller blades, motorized wheelchairs.
What bicyclists must do: Ride at “reasonable and prudent” speed, yield right-of-way to motor vehicles crossing the path; yield to all pedestrians; give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.
Property owners: No person shall stop or park, or cause to be stopped or parked, any vehicle, trailer, mobile home, motor home, camper, or boat upon a path so as to obstruct the free passage of others. No person shall deposit, or cause to be deposited, upon a path, any earth, stone, sand, gravel, trash, rubbish, cans, bottles, broken glass, nails, garbage cans or any other dangerous objects or debris.
Other: No fishing from the path or bridges. Path users must remove any pet fecal matter their animal leaves on the path.
Check out Laketown Township’s Instagram account for videos of some of the shared-use paths.