BUCHANAN — Years of hard work and determination have paid off for the Friends of McCoy's Creek Trail as members received word Tuesday that their state grant application to extend the trail looks like it will be funded.
While the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board won't issue its final recommendations for funding until early December, Buchanan city officials received word this week that the trust fund's staff scored the Friends of McCoy's Creek Trail project highest of the 100 applications received.
"We're most of the way there," Buchanan special projects manager Donna Southwell said. "We're really excited about it; this really is a big deal."
Southwell said the trail extension project received a score of 440 out of a possible 520 total points to make it the top scoring application out of 100 applications for development projects.
The City of Buchanan on behalf of the Friends group applied for a $288,000 grant from the Natural Resources Trust Fund in April to help pay for the trail extension project. The local match for the grant, $100,000, has already been raised by the Friends of the Trail.
Friends president Dick Proud was ecstatic about the news. He and other volunteers have been working for nearly a decade to start the trail system in the city. A section of the trail along the creek from Schirmer Parkway on the northeast side of the city through the downtown is already in place.
The section to be funded with this grant would take the trail from where it ends near the Tin Shop Theatre south and west to city-owned land on the southwestern edge of the city. The new trail section will follow both the creek and an old railroad right-of-way the trail purchased from Norfolk-Southern a few years ago.
Shamika Askew-Storay, a grant coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said that the trust fund board will have between $30 million and $40 million to hand out in this grant cycle. Of that amount, 75 percent of the money goes to land acquisition projects and 25 percent to development projects such as the trail extension in Buchanan.
She confirmed that the trust fund staff scored the Buchanan project highest of the development project applications received. She said that which projects get funded is still up to the trust fund board's discretion and it will announce its final recommendations Dec. 7.
From there, the recommendations have to be approved by the state legislature and signed by the governor before any grant funds can be distributed, she said. That action usually takes place in the early part of the year, and the grant money is released in the spring.