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Footpath at center of debate in Oshtemo Twp.

Controversy over footpath in Oshtemo Township heating up between residents and board
Controversy over trail in Oshtemo Township heating up between the residents and the board.
Posted at 8:39 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 21:05:17-05

OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Gayle Miller said the footpath behind her house on 7th Street is a ‘gem.’ Local residents walk their dogs on it. Others ride their bikes. And, one time she saw 25 deer on it.

Gayle immediately snapped a picture of them, she remembered.

However, Gayle recently learned that next year the path could be gone and developed into a trail, she said.

That thought scared Gayle and her husband Timothy, she said.

A trail makes it open to everyone and they fear for their safety, she said.

“Good people may be on bikes but what about some lost soul that has a drug problem or decides they want to rob something on the outskirts on this property and they see this trail here and they come through,” Gayle said during an interview with FOX 17 on Monday afternoon. “Who’s going to protect me?”

Timothy said the path was once owned by AT&T Ameritech. However it’s been abandoned for decades. Since then he’s been taking care of it, using his own equipment and he owns property on the north side of it and the south side.

“This land has been in my family for 80 years plus,” Timothy said. “My family was here and helped establish Oshtemo Township.”

Timothy said they learned two weeks ago that the Oshtemo Township board wants to buy the land and turn it into a trail that’ll connect to Texas Township.

“The strange part about all this is they’ve planned this for two years,” Gayle said. “Not one property owner was even notified, not even with a 50-cent stamp on an envelop to let them know what they were planning.”

Karen High, parks director with Oshtemo Township, said the trail has been proposed on maps and non-motorized maps since 2008.

She added that the board got the word out about public meetings on social media, MLive and the township website.

She said it’s a project that’s garnered a lot of public support.

“I think that as Michigan tries to position itself as the trail state and they’re making more and more grant funds available for trails, and the popularity of the Kal-Haven trail and the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail here in this area, we’re hearing from more and more residents who want more trails in Oshtemo,” High said during a phone interview with Fox 17 on Monday afternoon. “This particular piece of property that we are able to purchase from Ameritech would provide a two-mile long trail in Oshtemo.”

High said the township board has a letter of support from Texas Township regarding the project.

They’re currently putting together a proposal to submit to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund by April 1, she said.

She said it’s a competitive grant. However they wouldn’t know if they've been awarded it until December 2020.

“The grant would pay for 75 percent of the appraised value of the land, and the land that we’re buying is like I mentioned from Ameritech,” High said. “We do have agreed upon price for that and it is a very generous offer from Ameritech. It’s below the appraised value.”

High added that the township is aware of the residents concerns about privacy and safety.

She said currently there’s no enforcement for trespassing on that trail. However, the township hopes that changes next year.

“We’re hopeful that once the township owns the property, we can begin to enforce no altering vehicles and things like that,” High said over the phone. “So the situation will actually improve for them.”