Allen Creek Greenway vision gets vote of confidence from Ann Arbor City Council
The Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to offer a firm endorsement of the creation of the Allen Creek Greenway.
The council's resolution directs city staff to assist the nonprofit Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy during the development and implementation phases.
Mayor John Hieftje said the city is gearing up to seek grant money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for a greenway anchor park at 415 W. Washington St. He noted the trust received a large influx of cash last year and is looking for projects to fund.
"It fits almost perfectly with the guidelines of what it is they're looking for," Hieftje said. "It's probably going to be easier to move the greenway portion of that new greenway and arts center development a little quicker, a little faster, than it's going to be to move the arts center."
The Greenway Conservancy is one of three organizations — including the Allen's Creek Watershed Group and an informal group of citizens called the Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway —Â that are working to turn the greenway concept into a reality.
Generally speaking, it would be a green walking and bicycle pathway located in the Ann Arbor Railroad right-of-way, running from the University of Michigan athletic complex to Argo Dam and the Huron River, according to a description on the conservancy's website.
The long-term vision includes "anchor parks" at three city-owned floodplain/floodway properties: the northeast corner of First and William streets, 415 W. Washington St., and 721 N. Main St. Other sites would be added later as they become available.
Greenway Conservancy board members Jonathan Bulkley and Ray Fullerton appeared before the City Council Thursday night to talk about their advocacy and fundraising efforts.
Bulkley said the University of Michigan made it clear last fall that it would meet with the conservancy once the city had demonstrated its full commitment to the greenway. An initial meeting with the Ann Arbor Railroad also indicated the railroad wanted a statement of support from the city before entering into serious discussions about the greenway.
Bulkley said the council's resolution helps in that regard and also helps provide assurances to potential donors that the city is committed to working with the conservancy on implementation of the greenway.
Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said the resolution approved Thursday night is consistent with actions the council has taken previously in support of the greenway.
"This is a long-term vision for the city along one of the most significant topographical landmarks that we have," Hohnke added.
The Allen Creek Greenway would extend from Stadium Boulevard, through downtown Ann Arbor to North Main Street and the Huron River and would connect to the already established and heavily utilized Huron River Greenway and Border-to-Border Trail.
Courtesy of Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway
The conservancy is collaborating with the developer of the Near North affordable housing project to establish a segment of the greenway at Summit and Main Street.
The city first recognized the idea for an Allen Creek Greenway in a July 1981 parks plan. The idea also was included in the May 2009 revision of the Downtown Plan, which states the following goal: "Foster the development of a system of linked open spaces on the floor of the Allen Creek valley to create an amenity which encourages residential investment and provides an improved transition between the downtown core and west side neighborhoods."
In 2001, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Washtenaw County Drain Office and the Huron River Watershed Council officially adopted the Allen's Creek Watershed Management Plan created by the Allen's Creek Watershed Group, which called for the creation of a greenway in the Allen Creek floodplain. Officials say a greenway could significantly reduce flood hazards for residents and businesses on the west side of Ann Arbor.
In August 2005, the City Council passed a resolution to create a task force to plan a new greenway. The council directed then City Administrator Roger Fraser to begin substantive discussions with the Ann Arbor Railroad to gain its cooperation in the creation of a greenway along the railroad right of way. The Greenway Task Force met for nearly two years and delivered its final report to the City Council in March 2007.
In July 2009, the City Council passed a resolution to preserve city-owned property at the northeast corner of First and William streets as open space, noting the importance of the site relative to the greenway. In February 2010, the council passed another resolution calling for an innovative process of community collaboration to explore a greenway park and arts center at 415 W. Washington, another city-owned property.
The city's Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan and the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan now recognize the future creation of the Allen Creek Greenway.
Ann Arbor resident Matt Grocoff of GreenovationTV created the following video making a case for the Allen Creek Greenway:
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.