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Macomb Orchard Trail

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can use the trail?


Will the number of users justify the cost to own and develop the trail?


Will the railroad donate the trail for a tax deduction?


Will the state DNR purchase the trail for use as a state park?


Does the property revert to adjacent landowners on abandonment?


How much will it cost to buy the trail?

How much will it cost to develop the trail?

How will purchase and development be paid for?

What is an Interlocal Agreement?

Who participates in writing and approving the interlocal agreement?

Who represents the member units on the Trail Management Commission?

Will the trail increase my taxes?

How much does it cost to operate the Trail Management Commission?

Who does the maintenance and how much does it cost?

Will I be liable for accidents or injuries to people who come off the trail onto my property? What is my liability if they become ill from eating stolen produce treated with pesticides?

What if adjacent landowners have special needs regarding privacy rights, fencing, access to landlocked fields, etc?

Who will pay for accidents or injuries that occur on the trail?

How can I preserve my privacy and protect my property against personal attacks, vandalism and theft by trail users?

Who polices the trail?

Will I be liable if trail users become ill due to contact with pesticides during crop spraying?

How long will it take to purchase and develop the trail?

What type of surface will the trail have?

How can emergency vehicles reach injured or otherwise distressed persons on the trail?

Will the trail provide rest rooms?

Where will trail users park their cars?

Do road crossings create traffic hazards?

Who can use the trail?   (Return to top of page)

Trail users will include walkers, joggers, runners and cyclists. If the trail were paved, in-line skaters and handicapped people in wheel chairs would also use it. Wheeled motor vehicles would be prohibited. Trails in northern Michigan allow snowmobiles in the winter. Trail management will decide whether to allow snowmobile use.

Will the number of users justify the cost to own and develop the trail?   (Return to top of page)

A trail is especially suited to the exercise and recreational activities of a high percentage of the population. A 1998 survey by the National Sporting Goods Association found that over 77% of the respondents participated in exercise walking. Over 43% of the respondents also participate in bicycle riding. The same survey reported that in-line skating participation grew the fastest of any participatory sport from 1997 to 1998, more than doubling in popularity. A study by the National Park Service found that trail users spend $10 a day and more in the course of their trail use. Considering that Americans used rail-trails 85 million times in 1993 — that is an average of three people entering a trail every second, 24 hours a day, seven days a week —, the economic benefit of the Macomb Orchard Trail will likely exceed the cost. Locally, the Paint Creek Trail is in continual use during all daylight hours. Many people travel considerable distances to use this trail. On weekends that use is very heavy.

Will the railroad donate the trail for a tax deduction?   (Return to top of page)

It has not been the practice of railroads anywhere in the U.S. to donate their abandoned property; Canadian National is no exception.

Will the state DNR purchase the trail for use as a state park?   (Return to top of page)

The DNR owns and operates trails around the state and supports this acquisition, but they lack the staff and funding required to own or operate the Macomb Orchard Trail.

Does the property revert to adjacent landowners on abandonment?  (Return to top of page)

A 1968 state law required all persons holding reversionary rights to claim them at that time. If claimed, the claim must be renewed every 30 years. If unclaimed, the rights are voided. Attorneys for the County Board are investigating the existence and validity of reversionary claims in this case.

How much will it cost to buy the trail?  (Return to top of page)

The railroad is asking $5.2 million for the Macomb County portion. The County Board is negotiating a sale price. The railroad is seeking a quick sale, and the possibility remains that they could sell portions for other uses if the sale as a unit is not consummated. They consider sale of the Macomb County section as a unit for use as a trail to be their best and most lucrative option, however.

How much will it cost to develop the trail?  (Return to top of page)

Two recent cost estimates to surface the Polly Ann Trail in Oakland County with crushed stone averaged $38,500 per mile. Estimate cost for asphalt is $110,500 per mile. A crushed stone trail will have to be resurfaced in 10-20 years while a paved trail should last well over 20 years. Resurfacing cost, for which grants are not available, will be a factor in the decision.

How will purchase and development be paid for?  (Return to top of page)

The majority of the money to purchase and develop the trail will come from available federal and state grants. These are funds already collected or appropriated from expected tax revenue and available upon valid application. If not spent for this trail they will go elsewhere; they will not come back as a tax cut. Local matching funds — approximately 6.25 percent for acquisition and 25 percent for development — must be appropriated before obtaining the grants. The County Board is seeking private sources for the local matching funds. A Trail Management Commission established by an Interlocal Agreement will arrange local funding and apply for the grants.

What is an Interlocal Agreement?  (Return to top of page)

An interlocal agreement is a legal document that allows local units of government to cooperate in a worthwhile activity such as owning and operating a trail. It is written by representatives from each participating local government unit, and approved by their respective governing bodies. The interlocal agreement establishes a Trail Management Commission composed of representatives appointed by the participating government units. The Trail Management Commission owns and operates the trail.

Who participates in writing and approving the interlocal agreement?  (Return to top of page)

Governing bodies along the trail and other interested units that pass resolutions in support of the trail concept and the formation of an interlocal agreement may participate. Currently the Townships of Armada, Bruce, Shelby and Washington; the Villages of Romeo and Armada; the City of Richmond; the Macomb County Board of Commissioners and The Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority are participating. Only Richmond Township, of the communities along the trail, has not passed these resolutions. The trail can be operated in a community that does not participate, and outside communities can participate if they are able to support the trail financially. Representatives of the governing bodies that support the trail are currently meeting to draft this agreement.

Who represents the member units on the Trail Management Commission?  (Return to top of page)

The Commission will consist of one representative from each party, who is appointed by the community’s elected governing body. These representatives serve at the pleasure of their elected governing body. The elected representatives would automatically leave the Commission at the end of their terms of election.

Will the trail increase my taxes?  (Return to top of page)

The trail will not increase taxes unless voters approve. The Management Commission submits a budget assessing member units for operating funds, but cannot levy taxes. All governing bodies must approve the budget before any funds are spent. Development and improvement funding are budgeted and approved separately.

How much does it cost to operate the Trail Management Commission?  (Return to top of page)

The cost to operate the Commission would be less than $2000 per year per member unit. The major part of this would be office expenses, insurance and attorney fees. Individual member units also provide in-kind professional services, a meeting room for the commission, etc.

Who does the maintenance and how much does it cost?  (Return to top of page)

Typically, participating communities maintain their own portions of the trail. Regular maintenance consists primarily of mowing the shoulders of the trail, picking up trash, clearing trees and removing other obstructions. The cost depends in part on how nice the community wants to make the trail. Communities along the Paint Creek Trail in Oakland County budget an average of $1124 per mile for maintenance. In addition, local maintenance includes periodic safety and liability inspections of the trail and nearby streams, with follow-up preventive actions to ensure safe conditions are present and reduce liability.

Will I be liable for accidents or injuries to people who come off the trail onto my property? What is my liability if they become ill from eating stolen produce treated with pesticides?  (Return to top of page)

The Michigan Trailways act of 1993 protects private landowners against liability. Under this law, a landowner that does not charge a trail access fee will not be held liable for injuries sustained on his/her property unless an injured person can prove "willful and wanton misconduct on the part of the landowner."

What if adjacent landowners have special needs regarding privacy rights, fencing, access to landlocked fields, etc?  (Return to top of page)

It is the intent of Trail Management Commissions in general to be on the best possible terms with adjacent landowners and to accommodate their needs. "Farm Crossing" signs typically mark cross-trail access to landlocked fields, which would be maintained as it was when owned by the railroad. However, significant grading to improve access where a grade separation now exists is unlikely due to the presence of communication cables buried beneath the right of way.

Who will pay for accidents or injuries that occur on the trail?  (Return to top of page)

The trail will be covered by an overall liability insurance policy purchased by the Trail Management Commission. Public liability risks from trails are small relative to other public facilities like roads, playgrounds and swimming pools.

How can I preserve my privacy and protect my property against personal attacks, vandalism and theft by trail users?  (Return to top of page)

According to a National Park Service study The Impacts of Rail-Trails, most adjacent owners experience minimal loss of privacy when a rail-trail is developed. Generally, a thick row of already established trees and shrubs covers the 40 feet between each edge of the right-of-way and the trail. Additional vegetation can be added to the unused portion of the right-of-way if needed to protect privacy. Fencing is expensive and rarely necessary except to contain livestock, because the vast majority of trail users are law-abiding citizens who have no interest in trespassing or mischief. Virtually no crimes occur along trails in Oakland County, where the Paint Creek Trail has been in operation for over 10 years. Owners of property along trails throughout the state find that access to the trails is of more interest to them than is protection from trail users. On the other hand, the present right-of-way, as abandoned private property that is not patrolled by police or sheriff’s deputies, can easily be used for illegal activity.

Farmers and orchard owners along the route will find that trail users are potential customers interested in purchasing produce. Merchants along the trail might benefit from the good will of offering to allow trail users to park on their property with the expectation that they would shop in their stores and markets.

Who polices the trail?  (Return to top of page)

Member communities typically include public safety assistance to deter vandalism and motorized use of the trail as part of their police protection budgets. Bicycle patrols and mounted units, which are already used in some communities, could perform this service. The trail would probably be closed after dark. The cost of policing is nominal because crime on trails is virtually unknown. Efforts to brand trails as crime sites have had to search nationwide over a period of several years to find even a handful of reported crimes. Compare that to the number of crimes reported on any given day in Macomb County at non-trail sites.

Will I be liable if trail users become ill due to contact with pesticides during crop spraying?  (Return to top of page)

The same preventive measures that apply to protection of adjacent homeowners and users of adjacent roads would apply to trail users. The trail can be posted and/or closed, if necessary, during actual spraying, as it is on trails elsewhere in Michigan. Neither farmers nor orchard owners need fear these dangers as the levels of pesticides used in crop production are lower than those used on golf courses where people routinely roam at random.

How long will it take to purchase and develop the trail?  (Return to top of page)

Earliest estimates place the acquisition date in early 2001 if the Interlocal Agreement is approved promptly and local matching funds are provided. Development, meaning a finished surface, will be completed when the Trail Management Commission and its supporting communities obtain local matching funds and grants for this purpose.

What type of surface will the trail have?  (Return to top of page)

The Trail Management Commission will determine the type of surface. The trail will probably remain unsurfaced for a few years, because much of it is already suitable for use without improvement. Minor grading, bridge decks, guard rails, motor vehicle deterrent devices and signage are all that is needed to make it usable. Much of this can be done without cost to the communities through contributions and volunteer labor. The Polly Ann Trail in Lapeer County easily found donors for all of its bridge decks.

How can emergency vehicles reach injured or otherwise distressed persons on the trail?  (Return to top of page)

Gates and other devices used to prevent trail access by motor vehicles can be opened or removed quickly and easily by emergency personnel. The trail is wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles, and the longest distance they would have to travel to an adjacent public road is less than one mile.

Will the trail provide rest rooms?  (Return to top of page)

The Trail Management Commission will address the need for rest rooms as necessary. The Paint Creek Trail has no such facilities, nor do most out-state trails. A limited number of portable rest rooms can be rented for $60 per month each and placed strategically along the trail. Grants are available to help build rest room facilities when usage warrants.

Where will trail users park their cars?  (Return to top of page)

Efforts will be made, as part of the purchase and development process, to provide parking at selected locations, called trailheads, along the route. Since the property is 100 feet wide throughout, but the trail is only 8-12 feet wide, some parking is theoretically possible at every public road crossing. Local businesses and institutions such as churches, schools, etc. with underutilized parking space will be approached and may find it desirable to allow trail users to park on their property with the expectation of added business or as a community service. Grants are also available to purchase and develop parking lots when usage warrants.

Do road crossings create traffic hazards?  (Return to top of page)

Road crossings do not create traffic hazards when properly designed. An advantage of rail-trails is that they tend to have fewer road and driveway crossings than sidewalks or paths bordering the roads. Where crossings exist, stop signs on the trail and warning signs on the road can prevent problems and help trail users and motorists avoid dangerous situations.

Friends of the Macomb Orchard Trail 12/25/00.

Copyright 2013
Friends of the Macomb Orchard Trail Inc.

P. O. Box 385
Richmond, Michigan  48062-0385
www.orchardtrail.org