Niles trail extension saga coming to an endPublished 11:04pm Tuesday, May 25, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
The roller coaster that has been the Niles recreational trail extension project is finally smoothing out.
For the past week, Department of Public Works Director Neil Coulston has been trying to contact officials at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment to get permission to continue the trail extension project despite the presence of a state endangered plant, prairie trillium.
Coulston has not been able to reach the DNRE, so he approached the office of state Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles.
Tyler’s legislative aid, Will Wagner, contacted DNRE official Lori Sargent and explained the city’s situation.
“I then got an answer from the DNRE that the city could proceed with the project,” Wagner said.
Coulston had Wagner’s report confirmed from the DNRE Tuesday night.
“I can’t believe it!!!,” he said in an e-mail. “Time to put the project in high gear.”
Coulston thought the city may have to wait until next spring to finish the project, when last week as volunteers were ready to transplant the trillium, only 13 plants were found.
This came after Wendy Jones, head naturalist at Fernwood Botanical Garden, last month found more than 130 of the pesky plants that have caused headaches for the city.
But none of that matters now that the city has the okay to continue the project.
Coulston said the approval from the DNRE will save the city a considerable amount of money since it now will not have to extend the project into next year.
The project, which has been riddled with setbacks, was first scheduled to begin in 2009 but was slowed by complications in obtaining an easement from Indiana Michigan Power Co., which has a substation in the area.