Presentation on theme: "Biking, hiking trail supporters play down crime Some Macomb property owners raise safety concerns By Mike Wowk / The Detroit News."— Presentation transcript:
Biking, hiking trail supporters play down crime Some Macomb property owners raise safety concerns By Mike Wowk / The Detroit News
SHELBY TOWNSHIP -- Lee Sorensen says he still hears concerns from nervous property owners worried about crime on proposed biking and hiking trails. "But if you did want to rob someone on a trail, what are you going to carry off on foot or on a bicycle?" said Sorensen, a Shelby resident who chairs the advocacy group, Friends of the Macomb Orchard Trail. Over the weekend, Sorensen's group cleaned up a nearly mile-long section of a former railroad right-of-way in Washington Township. The section is the first leg of what the group hopes will eventually become a 23.5-mile bike trail stretching from Rochester Hills in Oakland County to Richmond in northeast Macomb. While Sorensen points to national studies that show biking and hiking trails have very low crime rates, Armada Township Supervisor Monica Job said crime is one reason many residents in her north-central Macomb community continue to oppose the proposed trail.
Opponents Job, also an opponent of the proposed trail, said development costs and the desires of adjacent property owners to reclaim the former railroad right-of-way also are issues with which the township is grappling. "I don't know that there is any one that was less important," Job said. "The fact that we don't have full-time police protection out here is a concern. There's no place in America that's like Mayberry anymore."
Nuisance Crimes Macomb County's busiest trail is for biking, hiking and inline skating along Metropolitan Parkway in Harrison Township. "The biggest problems we've had are what I call the nuisance types of crimes, like graffiti, motorized vehicles on the trail or kids hanging out," Sheriff Mark Hackel said. "I can't recall any assaultive crimes on the trail." Capt. Robert Smith of the Oakland County Sheriff's Department said his deputies have experienced few crimes on a two- mile section of the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester Hills. "Our trail is pretty populated (with riders and hikers), so we have very few problems," Smith said. "It's no worse than (any) city park." Coincidentally, both the Macomb and Oakland sheriff's departments have made plans to add more bicycle patrols this spring to their respective trails, according to Hackel and Smith. "The rails-to-trails project is just gearing up in (Rochester Hills), and we want to be ready for that," Smith said. "Also, the bicycles are a great way to get around in the parks. It's part of our community policing."
Project moves ahead Backers of the trail are finding their primary opposition in Armada Township. A majority of voters in a 2000 ballot advisory question said they were opposed to development of the trail. Supervisor Job said the railroad right-of-way was taken more than 100 years ago from private property owners, and many current owners of the adjoining properties feel they should be able to reclaim the land. Other residents object to the $25,000 fee that each community will be asked to ante up to get the trail project off the ground. Then there was the perception of crime by residents as a reason for killing the project, Job said. But Sorensen, who has appeared at Armada Township meetings in an effort to win support for the trail, said crime already has come to the old rail bed. "There are (all-terrain vehicles) and snowmobiles out there now," Sorensen said. "If we got the trail (established), we could patrol it and keep the motor vehicles out of there."