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Re-routed biking trail will lead riders to Algonac

Photo courtesy of Adventure Cycling Association/Photographer Dana DeBruyn Josh DeBruyn (MDOT) on the Pere Marquette Trail east of Clare, Michigan.

Cycling Association shares their role in the plan

By Barb Pert Templeton

Bike enthusiasts looking for a route to Canada in St. Clair County will have a new option this spring when a new route will be announced to direct riders to the Walpole Island Ferry in Algonac.

Algonac Mayor Pro Tem Michael Bembas, sitting in for Algonac Mayor Terry Stoneburner who was absent from the meeting, shared the details of the resolution for the rerouted bike trail at a city council meeting on March 15. 

He said the council was being asked to adopt resolution #2022-03, supporting the re-route of U.S. Bike Route 20 to Canada via the Walpole Island Ferry in Algonac.

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St. Clair County Metropolitan Plan commission is working with MDOT and the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) to reroute U.S. Bike Route 20 which is a 300-mile bicycle corridor connection between Marine City and Ludington Michigan. 

The original route connected to Canada via the ferry between Marine City and Sombra Ontario but since that ferry is no longer operational the ACA would like to reroute US R-20 and provide the connection to Canada via Walpole Island Ferry in Algonac. MDOT is seeking resolutions of support from municipalities along the route and the deadline to submit their application with supporting documents is March 25, 2020.

Councilman Jay Skarbek made the motion to support the plan and was seconded by Councilman Corey Blair.

“I don’t know how this happened but I think this is a wonderful thing to maybe have more people that don’t live in Algonac biking through our wonderful city and bring some commerce to our city,” Blair said. “And so, this is fabulous, how this fell into place and I think it’s a great thing.”

Councilman Rocky Gillis said he had been thinking about the resolution and realized Algonac is one of only three border crossings in the lower peninsula of Michigan and they are the only one with an auto ferry.

Photo courtesy of Adventure Cycling Association
A photo of the previous U.S. Biking Route in Marine City, Michigan was taken in 2017. Since the ferry to Canada has closed in Marine City the route has been redone to direct cyclists to the Walpole Island Ferry in Algonac.

“Being kind of a nerd, I googled how many auto ferries to Canada there are in the United States and I came up with only five,” Gillis said. “So, we are one of only five communities in the United States that have an auto ferry to Canada and that’s pretty neat.”

He said they’ve all grown up in a time when there was one ferry in Marine City and one at Robert’s Landing so now to be down to the last ferry to Canada and to have this bicycle route run thru it in Algonac was really cool.

“I used to do a lot of cross-state bicycling, I know you can’t tell anymore, but people who do these bike rides sometimes bring large amounts of people which could bring a large amount of commerce,” Gillis said.

Blue Water Healthy Living contacted Jennifer Hamelman, the USBRS Program Manager for Adventure Cycling to find out more about plans for the new route coming to the city this spring.

Blue Water Healthy Living: What role does the ACA play in the planning or placement of a new route?

Manager of Adventure Cycling Jennifer Hamelman: Adventure Cycling has a long history of researching and mapping long-distance cycling routes across the country. As such, we worked with MDOT to suggest a U.S. Bicycle route based on our experience routing cyclists on the Lake Erie Connector Route.

Blue Water Healthy Living: Why is this important to cyclists?

Hamelman: USBR 20 is part of the larger U.S. Bicycle Route System which is a national bicycle route network directing bicyclists to preferred routes through cities, counties, and states and across state lines – creating opportunities for people everywhere to bicycle for travel, transportation, and recreation. As routes are established, the USBRS supports and links local routes and trails, increasing the visibility of people traveling by bike and building support for good cycling conditions. Communities located along U.S. Bicycle Routes benefit through tourism, livability, and health impacts.

Blue Water Healthy Living: What goes into changing it – new maps? Publicize it wildly?

Hamelman: MDOT will submit an application to AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) in early April and approval of the change will be announced in June. At that time, the new routing will be available at the USBRS Maps & Resources page on the Adventure Cycling website (adventurecycling.org/usbrsmaps) and the Michigan DOT website.

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