Lake Michael Park trail extension plans

The yellow line on the map represents where the new trails would run; the purple line is the existing trail and the pink represents the already approved trail run from The Retreat to the park's entrance. 

Mebane Recreation and Parks held a virtual public input meeting Thursday evening to explain plans for extension of the trails at Lake Michael Park, as well as draw feedback from residents on the project. Another meeting, this one in-person, was held at the Lake Michael Boathouse on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

The department felt a public input meeting was necessary prior to applying for the grant that will fund the project, called the Recreation Trails Program Grant.

Aaron Davis, Mebane Recreation and Parks Director, and Josh Johnson, Project Engineer at Alley, Williams, Carmen, & King, hosted the virtual meeting – laying out the trail extension plans and taking residents’ questions.

At Saturday’s in-person meeting, there were 24 people in attendance, Davis said.

The extensions have been a part of the Lake Michael Mast Plan since 2006, calling for trails to be extended all around the lake. The existing trail is back-and-forth and only about 1.2 miles. If the extensions are added, the trail will become a loop, totaling 3.1 miles.

Davis said most bikers, hikers, walkers and runners prefer a loop trail over a back-and-forth one. 

There is already a project, approved in this year’s budget, that will cut a trail connecting The Retreat with the entryway to the park. With the addition of the proposed trail, the loop would be complete.

Johnson added that the plan calls for the repair of sections of the existing trails, as well.

Davis said the project will improve the city’s ability to host events and activities, along with improving user experience. 

“From a programming and user experience, it would be so much better for the users of Lake Michael and give an easy way to access the lake and its amenities -- whether it be boating, fishing, running, hiking, jogging, playing at the playground or using a shelter,” Davis said “This also gives the City a little bit more programming opportunities with possible 5ks and 10ks, triathlons, [for example].”

Johnson said the entirety of the proposed extensions are on city property, however there are areas in which the trails will run very close to residential properties.

“The entire trail is on the city property, even the areas where it looks like we get a little close, either to water or to residences or other properties, it's all on city property,” he said.

Davis added public input, and public approval, of the extensions is one of the project’s top priorities.

The department mailed letters to all residences in close proximity to the lake ahead of the Thursday evening meeting and, Davis said, if the grant and project are approved, they will be working closely with those who live near the proposed trails.

“As we look at this project, we’re striving for a happy and healthy community,” he said.

“We want to build these trails with our neighbors and for our neighbors and strive to be harmonious and be partners with this project.”

And, judging by the responses of those who attended the meeting, it appears there is public support of the project.

Resident Alan MacKenzie, who uses the trails at Lake Michael for mountain biking, running and hiking, if the department had explored a partnership with Triangle Off Road Cyclists (TORC) in building the new trails.

“On a good workday, you could get 20 people out there helping,” MacKenzie said. “Down the road, there's a lot of people who would volunteer their time who are pretty skilled at trail building.”

At the in-person meeting, Davis said most folks were in support of the city applying for the grant, but some had some concerns and questions about it.

“I wouldn’t say that anyone was 100 percent opposed to the idea, they just had questions that the City will need to answer as the idea of the project continues,” Davis said.

Davis added more questions were also asked at the in-person meeting, and there were more people skeptical of the project at Saturday's meeting than there were at the virtual meeting.

The grant for the project would be for $100,000, which, Davis said, is essentially half of its total cost. 

If the Mebane receives the grant, the timeline for the project’s completion would depend on if the funds are disbursed all at once or incrementally.

The department is hopeful the whole project can be completed in two to four years, max.