MONROE - A 5-mile run and walk, a living history encampment, and appearance by Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin are among the events being held for this weekend's dedication of the River Raisin Heritage Trail.
The $250,000 project, many years in the making, was the collective effort of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the city of Monroe. The state and the city built the trail within their jurisdictions with the Community Foundation of Monroe using a portion of a private grant it received to augment the path with park benches, signs, and a fishing pier.
The city completed its nearly half-mile stretch in September and the connector to the park was completed later in the fall when construction was wrapped up on the 1-mile section that goes though state-owned land under I-75 into Ford Marsh.
"There are a lot of dynamic components that went into this," said Fred Lewis, director of engineering and public services for the city of Monroe.
The idea for the project goes back several years when Monroe began hatching a plan to extend the system of city sidewalks to the northeast areas of the city.
"We wanted a connector to the state park," he said. "The idea was to have a greenways path to tie in as many areas that are not served."
The city used about $90,000 in federal grant money earmarked in 2005 under a federal railroad consolidation project that eventually was abandoned. The city provided a 20 percent local match to build the nonmotorized trail.
"The trail is quite unique. Once you are out there on the trail, you would never know you are close to the city," said Eric Cowing, manager of the 1,200-acre state park. The cost to the Department of Natural Resources was $150,000.
Kathleen Russeau, executive director of the Community Foundation of Monroe, said $100,000 of a $385,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was used for signs, benches, and sound posts that act as field guides for the visually impaired.
"Our goal is to allow people to have access to recreation no matter what their abilities are," she said.
Monroe City Manger George Brown said that before the path was built, the only practical way for residents to get to the state park was to drive there.
"This is a great additional to the system of sidewalks throughout the city," he said.
The county and city have long-range plans to extend the trail system into the city to connect to Munson Park, the Monroe County Historical Museum's Navarre-Anderson Trading Post, and the Monroe County Community College campus.
The festivities to dedicate the path begin at 3 p.m. Friday with a ribbon-cutting near the trail head at East Elm and Detroit avenues. Mr. Corwin, a biologist and environmentalist, will be the featured guest.
The Lacroix re-enactment group will have a live encampment from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday at the battlefield visitor's center.
The group is named after Capt. Hubert Lacroix, believed to be the first man from the Frenchtown settlement along the River Raisin to volunteer for active duty in the War of 1812. Soldiers from his Michigan militia, formed in May, 1812, hailed largely from the River Raisin area.
The re-enactors educate the public in recreating the clothing, equipment, and lifestyles of Lacroix's militiamen and their families.
Other events Saturday near the trail head near East Elm and Detroit avenues are:
• 5-mile run and walk from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Participants can sign up the day of the event for $30 at 7:30 a.m. at East Elm and Detroit avenues. Sponsored by the Monroe Milers, the course will be run on the new trail.
• Kayak trips in the trail area will be available for $10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at East Elm and Detroit.
• Free guided tours of the trail will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Local experts will demonstrate the importance of the Ford Marsh for bird migration, habitat for bald eagles, and beds of American Lotus.
• Tails on the Trail, a fund-raising walk to benefit Project Second Chance Monroe, will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Dog owners can donate money to take their pets on a two-mile walk on the trail. Project Second Chance is a training and responsibility program that pairs youngsters from the county youth center with dogs provided by the Monroe County Humane Society.
• A fun family-style bicycle ride will be from 3 to 5 p.m. The $15 ride is sponsored by Jack's Bicycles of Monroe.
• "Mysteries of the Marsh Ghost Tours," a performance by the Monroe Community Players, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Cost is $10 and tickets must be purchased in advance.
More information about the events is at rrtrail.com.
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