CADILLAC — Cadillac City Council last week voted unanimously to approve potential snowmobile routes with the intention of connecting snowmobiles to downtown facilities. Three potential routes have been approved by the council in anticipation that the City of Cadillac will make public safety-related updates and additions.
An official plan for the routes has not yet been drawn up, but the council has given the green light to keep the project going. Cadillac City Manager Marcus Peccia said continuing work on the tracks has been added to the city’s list of pending projects and they will likely return to the council with their updates by the summer.
Before Monday’s public hearing on the routes, community development director John Wallace had drawn several snowmobile trails, but the board raised concerns about pedestrians and the proximity of the routes to the White Pine Trail.
Before the hearing began, Wallace presented the newly drawn routes along with some public safety explanations.
According to Wallace’s map, the first and longest of the routes begins where the southern end of the White Pine Trail enters the city. Due to the fact that snowmobiles are allowed on the trail outside of city limits, Wallace said this would be a logical place to start the route.
This portion of the route would only be about 20 to 50 feet long, long enough to branch off and walk on a grassy patch alongside the White Pine Trail. From there, the route parallels the White Pine Trail until it reaches downtown.
One consideration Wallace took into account when redrawing the routes was to limit the conflict between snowmobiles, pedestrians, and automobile traffic. Limiting the time it takes snowmobiles to travel on streets or sidewalks was also considered, in addition to parking on grassy areas.
These guidelines come into play when the route enters Pearl Street, where it then passes between the roadway and the White Pine Trail. Exiting Pearl Street, the route leads to Marble Street and then Granite Street. There is a slight deviation in route at Pollard Street that leads to Willow Market and Primos BBQ.
As the route continues from there, Wallace pointed out that the area’s terrain is beginning to change and with some additional assessments, some vegetation may need to be removed and drainage diverted.
Similar to a consideration for the bike path, Wallace said there is an opportunity for snowmobiles to cross Cottage Street so the route can continue along the vacated railroad track downtown.
Between Cottage Street and South Street, the route would briefly coincide with the pavement and then divert to an open adjoining space for several feet. The route would then move back to the pavement before moving back onto an abandoned grassy path.
The route eventually reaches the Cadillac Wexford Public Library parking lot, heads west to Lake Cadillac and ends.
When the idea of adding snowmobile routes downtown was first proposed, community members began reaching out to the council to voice their concerns about pedestrian safety. Mayor Carla Filkins was also initially concerned but said the council ultimately changed its mind on the matter once Wallace was able to clarify the routes.
“I think the clarification of the maps has been very helpful, both for the council and for the people in the community. When people first saw them, it looked like they were going places that a lot of people didn’t agree with, like down the White Pine Trail,” she said. “And so I think the work of John Wallace was very helpful in clarifying what it would look like.”
Addressing public safety issues is one of the Council’s conditions for the continuation of the project. According to Peccia, city officials will discuss adding signage to mark the routes and keep snowmobiles off the White Pine Trail.
During and leading up to the public hearing, Filkins focused on gathering feedback from the community. People were encouraged to write letters explaining why they opposed the routes and whether they thought the routes would benefit the community. A few people spoke during the discussion phase of the public hearing, all of whom shared positive feelings about the implementation of the routes.
Wallace also shared maps for two smaller routes, the first of which begins at the dock near City Park and serves as a guide to potential parking spots along Harris Street. He said the route would not disrupt established parking lots.
A second, smaller route starts from the boat launch and connects to the intersection of Lake Street and Pine Street, where again part of the sidewalk is used. Then head north up the sidewalk, through an alley, and into the parking lot of G and D Pizza. Wallace said the owners had approved a possible gate to their property.
Another community concern Filkins addressed during the public hearing was that the routes were drawn in favor of G and D Pizza and Willow Market. She said that was not the case and that the routes would bring foot traffic to all downtown businesses.
“I just wanted to say that publicly that we’re doing this for all downtown businesses,” she said. “They’re anchored by Willow and G and D, but the idea was to be able to get snowmobilers from one end of downtown to the other.”
As of now, Peccia said whether the project will come to fruition depends on the city’s route changes getting another green light from the council.