Rails to trails projects - Are they worth the investment?
Michigan, and other states have seen a change from railroad grades to walking biking trails over the last several years.
While the old industrial infrastructure is converted to ‘cool cities’ attractions, communities are being asked to pitch in for tourism, and by golly, to commit for more of that brownfield dollar abuse as well. From today’s ticker:
“The new trail route is estimated to cost $5.3 million to complete. According to TART Trails Executive Director Julie Clark, $3.6 million (or 68 percent of the construction budget) is already earmarked in brownfield funding for the project. TART will seek an $800,000 commitment from Garfield Township trustees at their 6pm meeting tonight (Tuesday), leaving an $877,000 funding gap, or the remaining 17 percent of project costs. The city could help cover those costs, and partners could also apply for state grants, which “have funded the Boardman Lake Trail since day one,” Clark said.”
Its only money right?
One commenter says:
“Kudos to the City and TART. Trails are big money for cities, both in enhanced tourism and in adding value to properties. This will open up a lot of cool opportunities and add value all around Boardman Lake.“
I guess its “big money.”
Add to this the suggestion of creating a new parks authority, it only starts there.
$5.3-million can go a long ways towards building new roads.
Don't forget, the $400,000,000 dollars per year gas tax increase goes into effect in '17. No performance bonds, but pay the price.
Somebody should be conducting a title search on these Abandoned RR properties. There may be language in the deeds that the abandoned tracks reverts to the original owners. Many of these rails are from land patented properties from the federal government from mid 1800's (especially 1835 and up, when MI became a state) Many of these lines are nothing more than rail easements. Easements always stay with the property owner and abandon rails may belong to the property owners abutting these tracks. That being said, I'm just sick that we allow ourselves to be duped constantly by mileages and renewals.
I referenced your comment in response to another:
"John Bercini Are the trails owned by the private non profit or are they owned by the municipalities? I guess I should have asked this question first.
I suppose that the city owns part and the twp owns the remainder? Is TART a contracter for either? According to their site:
"The TART Trail between Carter Rd and Aero Park Dr is owned by the City of Traverse City, Aero Park Dr to the Bates/Lautner section is owned by the Grand Traverse County Road Commission. TART Trails works with the City and County on trail projects."
There are multiple concerns I would have.
1. Reversion clauses. And a comment from elsewhere mentions Land patents. It might be good to understand how this could affect any segment of the trail.
2. Several municipal concerns. If TART is operating the trail system as one entity, to whom do they report (I am assuming they do so as a contracted entity) What accounting of expenditures and segmentation is done?
3. Authorities have the ability to pull all of this together, but would TART cease to exist if there was an authority created?
4. Authoritiesin Michigan can assume debt for their municipal parts. This would mean additional taxes, and the ability to levy for shortfalls and unexpected liabilities.
5. An authority would be unaccountable to any specific population, and is an entity which is nearly impossible to ever disassemble when things go awry.
As for the benefit? Everyone all wants cool cities, and a really neato environment, but no one is willing to consider the cost to those who receive no benefit. Public use arguments for a park, a road, or even a library are much easier to make, and usually they are controlled by a specific entity, and accountable to a specific voting population.
Expanding the TART MAY do wondrous things for those who count tourist dollars into their piggy banks. But for most of us who continue to pay new and higher taxes but will never use the expanded system, or might have little subsidiary benefit, it really isn't a great deal.
We might see higher property values, but ..why is THAT good? So the government takes more from us? So a few people can profit from their lakeside investments?
I hope that the Garfield TWP board votes wisely to save their 'rainy day fund' for the next rainy day..
There is a section of the old easement between Ann Arbor and Pontiac that has not been developed in to a rails to trails. There may be more such portions. I recall that issue arising several years ago, and as Sue Schwartz notes, it may be that adjacent property owners did in fact challenge the RT plans. I recall that discussion regarding property rights vs. RT years ago taking place in southeast LP.
Our refusal to confront unelected Brownfield leadership in (obvious) collusion with both elected (our fault) leadership and big-moneyed no-bid investors will be the #1 shameful legacy that our will children inherit this side of the cities intentionally destroyed for this purpose.
DDA's and every unelected/unlimited taxing 'Authority" that we could dream up effectively eliminated all competitive opportunities in the prime real estate areas where these trails terminate.
These trails are but the 'shiny object' needed to divert attention away from larger prime land grabs taking in any given urban area (see Detroit or Anytown USA).
We weren't willing to fight the most powerful in our communities no notice/no bid snapping up the most valuable pieces in them after we presided over the destruction of same needed to allow (subsidized) nationwide public real estate thievery in the first place. This will be our legacy. We not only gave our own critical land away but paid people to take it without competing against anybody for it.
"Rails to trails" was nothing but the shiny little object needed to distract using even more of that same money (above) to throw the uninterested in their children's future a bone.
it's pretty hard to fight City Hall if you're walking mindlessly in the woods during your free time.
How is a trail (anywhere) something to be proud of..if everybody in the entire community (or nation) isn't able to take a shot at enjoying it?
We allow our cities to be destroyed..then build trails to get OUT of them which 'only the able' can use(?).
It is sickening (and God will most certainly weigh in) that we allow the term 'non-motorized' to paralyze us even more than those unable to join us on that same indescribably enjoyable journey outdoors. Even more ironic are those supporting trails (in general) supporting 'social justice' even more.
Evidently 'green' power isn't for everybody...especially for those who would benefit the most.
But hey...we'd have to fight for that too.
We all shoulda known when Warren Buffet started buying up RR's that something was amiss. He wasn't quiet about this endeavor everyone believing that RR industry was something of the past but him. Buffet's thinking always has been buy it and create the perfect storm. Rail history is fascinating stuff--from RR moguls being borne to how the land was acquired to lay the tracks. I've always thought it would be fun to have one of those hand pumping RR platforms, and thought what a wonderful way to see the country. And, wouldn't it be fun to travel in your own caboose. That being said, there's a 2014 SCOTUS Land Patent case Brandt v U.S., 12-1173. The US vigorously fought this case involving abandoned RR tracks. The Brandt property was land-patented and granted an easement to the US for rails. The US did not want to give up that property and tried to overcome the land patent. In this opinion, is a wonderful short history on RR history law and how the land was acquired.