Everything Better Starts with Partnerships
Norte’s connection with East Bay Township began by recognizing that there are five schools — and over 2,400 students — within shouting distance of the intersection of Three Mile and Hammond Roads. East Bay is one of the area’s fastest-growing residential communities. Yet, it lacks safe routes for walking and rolling to school, work, or other destinations. The Township has committed to changing that, and we’re here to help. At the forefront of that commitment is Claire Karner, the township’s Director of Planning and Zoning.
“I have a great position because I get to do many different things,” says Claire, who is in her third year. The position focuses on zoning and issuing land use permits — a busy challenge in the fast-growing municipality. She also has the complicated task of how to connect it all.
“I also work on proactive planning projects like the master plan, updating the zoning ordinance, Safe Routes to School, and the Three Mile Trail,” she says. “As part of the master plan process, we are working on a non-motorized map that shows where we want to see sidewalks and trails. The goal is to have a connected system of trails with safe crossings that people can use to get to home, school, work, and throughout the township.”
East Bay’s master plan calls for increased investments in infrastructure for walking and rolling, primarily along its main corridors — US 31, Three Mile Road, and the Hammond Corridor. Each of these routes is quite different and requires many private and public partnerships. The township works closely with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and neighboring municipalities.
But building a complete network of sidewalks and trails doesn’t happen overnight. Claire sees how the progress will be incremental as the Township adds infrastructure with new developments. The other key to success is partnering for projects like the Three Mile Trail Extension and Safe Routes to School infrastructure.
“We have very limited infrastructure in East Bay Township. It’s a blank slate from a non-motorized perspective, so there’s lots of opportunity for building up that network,” says Claire. “With the Three Mile Trail, we’ve also had a lot of interest in non-motorized projects and connectivity.”
As partners with East Bay Township, TART, and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Norte has highlighted the Three Mile Trail many times. Like many of you, we look forward to completing the trail’s extension from South Airport Road to Hammond Road. Although contingent on many moving parts, including funding, the hope is to see the trail extension complete in 5-6 years.
“The exciting thing about the Three Mile Trail is that it will be a key transportation corridor for many people,” said Claire. “In a lot of the outreach with the residents of the East Bay Township, we’ve found the origin where people want to start their trips is near the Three Mile and Hammond intersection. So people are looking to this area to become a hub of activity.”
Claire is also working with Norte and the five local schools on a future Safe Routes to School grant. If awarded, it will facilitate much-needed crossings and sidewalks along the Three Mile and Hammond corridors. The appropriation would also provide continued safe route education opportunities for three school districts.
“There is a huge desire from a recreation, transportation, and improved community wellness standpoint,” said Claire. She urges residents to keep voicing their support. “People’s voices inform the master plan. Having trails, sidewalks, crosswalks as high priorities is the best way to see them implemented.”
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