COLDWATER, MI (WTVB) - Those for and against the idea of developing a bike trail along a 20-mile stretch of railroad track between Coldwater and Sturgis are getting their message out in advance of the proposed abandonment of the track. It’s extremely early in the decision making process on the future of the line, but Branch County Commissioners yesterday heard from several speakers on the pros and cons of the matter. James Curry is a volunteer with the Michigan Trail and Greenways Association and told the Board he was there to encourage members of the community and key local governments and agencies to look into what’s called railbanking as a way to preserve the corridor for either future railway use or possible conversion to a multi-use non-motorized trail for biking, hiking and possible equestrian use.
Meanwhile, Eric Eishen, a Bronson Township property owner whose land sits alongside the rail line, told Commissioners he believes most of the land owners aren’t even aware of the situation. He also reminded the commission these are struggling times for counties with budget cuts and furlough days. Eishen said funding a bike trail is not like paying for police and fire departments and road commissions. He described the trail as a want, and not a need and wondered if it’s wise to take on one more item that requires hard dollars since any government that signs onto acquiring the rail property will have to provide matching funds. The rail line is owned by the Indiana Northeastern Railway System, which last week submitted the abandonment request to the Federal Surface Transportation Board. That section of line between Coldwater and Sturgis has not been in use for at least ten years.