A conversation about a small piece of unused train track in Petoskey has turned into a larger discussion about the future of train transit in Michigan. State lawmakers are weighing the benefits of converting old train tracks into recreational trails.
Officials in Petoskey are asking lawmakers to give them the go-ahead to negotiate the purchase of old, unused train track to add on to an existing recreational trail. The section is a rail "spur," which would be like a train's driveway off of a main line and into Petoskey.
Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen says he's particularly concerned with getting rid of a spur that could prove useful to future train transit in and out of the area.
Sen. Hansen says, "Because if we keep abandoning all of these, I'm just concerned about the fact that the more of these we abandon, we can't put these back."
Kelly Bartlett is with the Michigan Department of Transportation, which supports the request from Petoskey. Bartlett says the state does not sell viable train track.
Bartlett says, "These are really situations where it's been quite a long while - years if not, frankly, decades - since there's been significant activity on the rail. It's not as if just last year there was a fair amount of traffic, but it's down this year so we'll pull the tracks up."
Those who support turning decaying train tracks into usable trails for hiking and biking say the trails support tourism and recreation on unused swaths of land.
The Petoskey rail-to-trail conversation is expected to continue this week.