Lake Orion’s Children’s Park becomes an Iron Belle trailhead
By Jim Newell
It’s been a long time coming – and a long-awaited boon for bikers, hikers and runners – but the Paint Creek Trail extension into Lake Orion is officially open.
Local officials and residents held a ceremonial ribbon cutting on June 2, National Trails Day, to mark the Lake Orion section of the trail.
Children’s Park, along the trail extension, also is a new trailhead for the Iron Belle Trail system.
The Iron Belle crosses through 48 different Michigan counties. Using existing trails, networks and some new connections, the trail extends more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit on a biking trail and hiking trail, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources website.
The ceremony, at the bridge near Meeks Park, the Orion Art Center and Lake Orion Horseshoe Club’s horseshoe pits, also featured crafts for the family and a trail walk led by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol.
“There’s been so many people that contributed to this,” said Village Council President Ken VanPortfliet. “And I get the distinct honor to say, ‘Thank you.’ This project has been a long time coming. The Paint Creek Trailways Commission has had a goal of extending into the village in their master plan for over 20 years.
“With the persistence of current and former staff and stakeholders, we are able to make this extension a reality,” VanPortfliet said.
Paint Creek Trail Manager Kristen Myers said the commitment of the DDA and Village of Lake Orion helped bring the project to fruition.
“This project would not be possible without the perseverance of the DDA Board, former (DDA) Director Suzanne Perrault and current Director Molly LaLone,” Myers said, presenting LaLone with a pewter Paint Creek Trail spike “to thank them for their perseverance and commitment to this trail extension project and to the thousands of users of the Paint Creek Trail.”
The trail extension was financed by a $263,232 Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant and the remaining funds from the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority. The approximately $424,000 project, plus engineering costs, includes the construction of the trail extension, purchase of easements and installation of amenities, such as a bike fixing station at Meeks Park, park benches and wayfinding signs.
“It was worth every penny to be able to have our park in the downtown be able to connect to Rochester’s park in the downtown. I think that’s priceless,” LaLone said.
Part of the Paint Creek Trail extension winds through the Lake Orion Lumber property, whose owners, the Nowell’s family, agreed to the easement to help make the trail extension a reality.
“Their generosity and spirit of cooperation are indicative to their commitment to this community and to their support of the trail community,” Myers said.
“I was so pleased to have the entire Nowell family at the ceremony, and all the dignitaries and supporters. What that tells me is that the project wasn’t important to just the DDA, but that it was important to the entire community,” DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone said.
“I want to thank all of those people, and the Orion Art Center and the Paint Creek Trails commission and the community.”