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Published: Monday, 7/3/2006

Monroe eager to blaze trails

BY CARIN YAVORCIK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Monroe Mayor C.D. "Al" Cappuccilli takes in the view of marshlands from an observation tower. Monroe Mayor C.D. "Al" Cappuccilli takes in the view of marshlands from an observation tower.
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MONROE - Afternoon showers yesterday may have rained on the proverbial parade, but the mist only added to the beauty of the marshlands surrounding a future GreenWays trail.

The city of Monroe had scheduled a five-mile Freedom Walk from downtown to Sterling State Park on the shores of Lake Erie yesterday at noon. But because of the rain, the walk was rescheduled for tomorrow at 9 a.m.

The event was designed to showcase the city and celebrate the Fourth of July. But it also was meant to show off what planners hope will one day become a trail through the city to the lake.

The Monroe trail project is part of the GreenWays Initiative, which is a larger strategy to one day connect miles of trails that run throughout southeastern Michigan near the Ohio border.

"The idea is to get all the communities together to raise the money to put all these trails in place," said John Patterson, president of the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau.

One of the program's advocates is U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn), who represents Michigan's 15th Congressional District.

Jim Mohler, left, and Rod Johnson decided to jog the trail when rain postponed yesterday's Freedom Walk in Monroe. Jim Mohler, left, and Rod Johnson decided to jog the trail when rain postponed yesterday's Freedom Walk in Monroe.
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Josh Meyers, a field representative for the congressman, said other Michigan counties have received federal money and started developing their trails. Monroe's trails are still in the planning stages, he said.

"Hopefully one day we'll have a trail going through the city of Monroe from Munson Park to Sterling," he said. Munson is on the city's west end. Sterling is on Lake Erie.

Several of the planned trails for the GreenWays Initiative already exist and will be linked through the project. The main trail development will be on a stretch that used to serve as a path to the old pump house for Monroe's paper factories.

The rescheduled Freedom Walk begins in St. Mary's Park and continues west along the river walk. The holiday hikers will end up on a paved loop five miles away in Sterling State Park. The terrain covered on the walk is what is scheduled to be developed as the new connected trail under GreenWays.

The envisioned path includes city streets and the unpaved pump house trail. That section is property of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and until recently was closed to the public.

"If I had it my way, I'd spend every day out here with school kids," Mr. Patterson said. "I speak to so many citizens who haven't been here. I think the way to change that is through the kids."

He said he thinks the Green-Ways project will draw more people to the little-known path, "just through the enthusiasm that is generated by something new."

Two Monroe residents, Rod Johnson and Jim Mohler, came out and ran the trails despite the rain. Mr. Mohler said they learned about the old service trail from a friend, and he's found it a great way to get to Sterling. "It's off the roads, so you don't have to worry about traffic," Mr. Mohler said. "There are deer back there, lots of rabbits and other critters It's kind of nice to see some of the wildlife there."

Even Monroe Mayor C.D. "Al" Cappuccilli had never been through the trail until Mr. Patterson took him out yesterday. He said he hopes that having the GreenWays trail running through the city will attract more people.

"I think it's kind of a draw. The idea of getting on a bike, for instance, in Monroe and riding down to Toledo, there's an excitement to that," Mayor Cappuccilli said. "When you're on your bike, it's like a free-spirited sort of feeling. It's an attraction that will bring people into the city."

Contact Carin Yavorcik at: cyavorcik@theblade.com or 491-724-6050.



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