Indianwood residents rally for path

Residents along Indianwood Road say they have waited over a decade for a safety path, and believe the cost of waiting any longer could be a life.
The Orion Township Board of Trustees held a public hearing on Nov. 2 on their safety path priority list, put together by the safety path advisory committee. The list categorized projects based on a 100-point system, with 26 total projects listed at a cost of nearly $25 million. Supervisor Jerry Dywasuk said he believed that number was somewhat inflated, due to east and west and north and south portions of projects being listed separately.
Parks and recreation director Rock Blanchard said some of the things that were considered when prioritizing the projects were how they fit into the township’s master plan, trail connection, number of residents served, nearby public facilities, their past place on the list, grants and partnerships available, and if it was near the site of future development (which actually subtracted five points).
Blanchard said the township currently has a safety path millage of a quarter of a mill, or about $347,000. He said $50,000 of the millage each year goes into the safety path maintenance fund.
Portions of a safety path for Indianwood Road appeared throughout the list, with the number three project being a safety path from Joslyn to Fernhurst, south. Joslyn to Baldwin, south; along with Joslyn to Baldwin, north; fell towards the middle of the list; while safety path from Fernhurst to Cushing/Knollwood and from there to Lapeer Road appeared near the bottom.
“Often times it seems the northern part of the township seems to be short changed,” commented Lakewood Drive resident Matthew Gibb. “The portion of Lapeer Road extending to where the township ends has no pedestrian access.
“The paths basically stop,” he said. “If you look at the map, there’s a good resident base up there.”
Colette Dywasuk, former Orion Township supervisor and Absequami Trail resident, urged the board to consider a safety path for Indianwood from Lapeer to Baldwin.
“We’ve been asking since 1988,” she said. “We keep being told we are at the top of the list. The proposed path…has again moved down the list, way down.”
Dywasuk said she believed the safety path committee had overlooked one crucial item when they put together the priority list.
“And that is safety,” she said. “I know the township has the money now to put forth a safety path on Indianwood Road. The path will never be built if we’re waiting for money from the safety path millage.”
Indianwood resident Todd Rachel echoed Dywasuk’s comments.
“There are a lot of new residents (in the Fernhurst area) who would be setting homes back if they knew a safety path was going in there,” he said.
Rachel said he mows his property along the road edge of Indianwood, which was raised several years ago.
“I’m very cautious,” he told the board. “Since they raised it, that road edge has become very steep. I also see a lot of gravel haulers using Indianwood to bypass M-24…We’re really going to be sorry if we wait much longer.”
Rosalie Ward said she originally brought petitions for a safety path on Indianwood to the township board in 1988.
“I was told we were not very far off the list,” she said. “We’d been number one for quite a while. That is a dangerous road.”
An Indianwood resident for 23 years, Tom Crisp brought a different perspective to the hearing.
“I’m probably the underdog here,” he said. “But you will not come across my property with a bike path…I like my privacy.”
Other residents complained that there is essentially no shoulder along some parts of Indianwood Road, which makes riding a bike there especially treacherous.
“It is a bit frustrating to come to this meeting and understand it is number three and some a bit farther down as well,” said Fairledge resident and runner Nancy Archer. “I would like to know how you become a member of (the safety path advisory) committee.”
Supervisor Dywasuk said one of the committee members had recently resigned, so there was an opening and any interested resident should contact Blanchard.
Resident Jerry Richards said the speed limit along Indianwood was also a concern.
“It’s a state highway, so it’s 45 miles per hour,” he said. “I think it’s time to consider slowing Indianwood down.”
Richards suggested X-ing out the shoulder so cars couldn’t use it as a temporary fix if a safety path couldn’t be built soon.
“I think you might actually save some money and be able to do some other paths in the community,” he said.
Jerry Burns, a retired Macomb County police officer who lives near Indianwood, said the current situation on the road was ripe for a disaster.
“If you fail to put in an area where people can safely transverse, you’re asking for disaster,” he said. “I spent 17 years investigating fatal accidents. I could probably write a book on it. People are out there running …and they’re using the shoulder of the roadway.”