South Bay Group amps up activity to improve U.S.-23 South corridor

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz South Bay President Larry Clark stands where the current Alpena Bi-Path ends along U.S.-23 South in Alpena Township. The group is working with township officials to possibly extend the Bi-Path to South Partridge Point Road.

ALPENA — After taking a hiatus and putting its plans on hold for the last several years, the South Bay Group has begun to amp up its activity to accomplish its goal of improving the south corridor of U.S.-23.

On Thursday, South Bay President Larry Clark said talks have resumed with Alpena Township officials and some of the group’s past plans are being reworked, which could satisfy the township’s concerns about the cost of maintenance associated with those projects.

The primary proposal currently under consideration is an extension of the Alpena Bi-Path, which runs along the highway but ends at Island Drive. Clark said his group’s plan would extend the path south to South Partridge Point Road.

He added that plans for a boardwalk and a bridge near Birdsong Bay have not been scrapped, but, because of the logistics and costs involved, those projects would likely have to be accomplished in another phase.

“For about the last year and a half, we have worked with the township supervisor and another member of the board to try to work out details that they wanted addressed,” Clark said, “first of which was coming up with a plan that would include minimum maintenance. We’re considering extending (the) Bi-Path with asphalt and installing culverts. The public is still very much behind us and we had a lot of positive comments during our last public input session in November.”

Clark said the Bi-Path would run on the east side of the highway and along the drainage ditch. He said the plan would impact little wetland.

Money is always a deciding factor in how large or small a project ends up. Clark said South Bay has financial commitment via grants and intends to seek more. He said the Besser Foundation, Park Family Foundation, and the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan have pledged money for the project, with the understanding it would run to South Partridge Point Road.

For many, the most exciting aspect of the project is the potential boardwalk on the shore of Birdsong Bay.

Clark said the group still wants to see that boardwalk become a reality, but they need to clear some hurdles making large strides.

He said that, ultimately, the state will have final say on the boardwalk because of the wetland where it would be built.

“The project is not squashed,” Clark said. “We still need to finalize the design, get cost estimates, and then we’ll talk to the state. Then we could move forward with getting grants.”

In summer 2021, the group announced it was taking a step back because of the coronavirus and because of the group’s inability to submit requests for grant funding without a local municipality stepping up and offering to take ownership and responsibility of the proposed infrastructure improvements.

Because the group was taking a slight break, Clark said the members are just now beginning to engage again. He said he hopes the group’s annual clean-up day on U.S.-23 South can be held and other goals can be addressed.

“We took a timeout during COVID, and I’m hoping people will be more motivated now,” he said. “It has been kind of hard to rekindle things, especially with the snowbirds in the group.”

South Bay was formed to help clean the south corridor and revitalize it through increased development and recreational opportunities. Its effort was pivotal in helping to reduce blight and attract several new businesses to that area.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today