Trail extension plans to be sup-planted?Published 10:27pm Friday, April 16, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
Plans to extend the recreation trail in downtown Niles have been slowed with the discovery of prairie trillium, a state-protected endangered plant, located on the route.
“I was a little surprised,” Niles Public Works Director Neil Coulston said. “I didn’t think it was the right habitat for it, but we knew the plant could be found in the area.”
Wendy Jones, head naturalist at the Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Center, volunteered to inspect the area, after the city was requested to do so by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Jones said the plant was not too prevalent along the route of the proposed extension, finding about 130 plants in the southern part of the route.
Coulston said the city has sent Jones’ report to the DNR along with a request to transplant the prairie trillium to Fernwood to allow the trail extension project to continue as planned.
If the request is denied, Coulston said the city would either have to end the extension where the plants are living or reroute the entire southern end of the trail, which would be a more expensive option.
Moving the plants would be a simple process, according to Jones. With a handful of volunteers, the job could be done in a few hours, she said.
“I think we are going to be fine,” Coulston said of the request. “The plants have been encountered on other projects in the county and permission has been granted. I don’t see why we would be any different.”
Coulston remains confident the extension will be completed this summer.
“By the first week of May we should get word back (from the DNR),” he said. “If they give us the OK, by early fall we’ll have it opened up.”
The project calls for the trail to be expanded north and south, tripling its length to 2.25 miles. The extension is part of a bigger project that would connect communities as far as Mishawaka.