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Grant could help with bicycle path

MONROE For the second time in eight months, Monroe County has received a grant officials hope will bring the area a step closer to achieving its goal of constructing an integrated bicycle path throughout the county.

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has given $10,000 to the county for a pair of workshops that will be held May 21. Area officials will meet to discuss the status of various projects and develop a blueprint for future plans.

We re excited about it, said Royce Maniko, the county s planning director.

In September, the county received $67,000 from the foundation to help pay for design and planning costs related to a trail that would link the city of Monroe s existing trail along the River Raisin with one at Monroe Community College that eventually would extend to Sterling State Park.

Mr. Maniko said an engineering firm has been retained to complete that project, which was aided by a $13,000 contribution from the county s board of commissioners.

The more recent grant is part of a foundation gift-giving program to its seven member counties Monroe, Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, and Livingston for workshops similar to the one being held in Monroe.

We are working with each of counties to develop information about what they have been doing and what they would like to see, said Tom Woiwode.

Mr. Woiwode directs the foundation s GreenWays Initiative, a five-year, $25 million program dedicated to developing a trail system in each of the counties.

The end goal is even larger, according to Mr. Woiwode.

We want to bring all seven [counties] together [and] develop a regional greenways network, he said.

Mr. Maniko concedes Monroe lags behind some of the other neighboring counties, including Lucas County in northwest Ohio, in a developed trail system. As a result, northwest Ohio officials will be involved in the workshop to lend their expertise and to discuss ways in which its trail system might eventually be linked to the one in Monroe County, according to Mr. Maniko.

We want to make sure we re in connection with Toledo, he said.

In addition to a land-trails system, Mr. Maniko said there are plans afloat for a blue-trail system for boaters along the county s Lake Erie coast that would link with similar trails on the Huron River and Detroit River International Wildlife Ref-uge. The idea is for boaters to travel along the rivers and lake and stop at designated blue-trail rest areas, some of which will connect to the bike trails.

We re in the preliminary [stages] of this [idea], Mr. Maniko said.

Mr. Woiwode said that although Monroe is behind some of the other counties, he is impressed by the enthusiasm county officials have demonstrated about the GreenWays project.

I m excited about [all] the recent activity being undertaken by the Monroe County leadership. We anticipate quite an active series of workshops, he said.

Mr. Maniko said the county will seek out partners to work with, such as Frenchtown Charter Township, which is constructing its own trail system that Mr. Maniko hopes will connect with Monroe s. Funding for the trails program will come from state and federal grants and other yet-to-be-determined sources.

We would like to have a portion of the trail finished every year, he said.

Contact George Tanber at gtanber@theblade.comor 734-241-3610.

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