Project Plan

Introduction

Many segments of the population are adversely affected by health consequences due to physical inactivity. These daily lifestyle habits have also spilled over into our vacation and recreational habits. Local governments can playa valuable role in changing this trend by providing facilities that support a healthy lifestyle and improved quality of life for all residents and visitors regardless of age and socioeconomic status.

Over the past 50 years, the focus of planning and design and has been in favor of the automobile. The extent of these practices is most evident in the suburbs and they have also started to encroach on resort and vacation communities. Visitors to resort and vacation communities expect convenience and easy access to their favorite vacation spots. They are often required to choose the automobile for trips less than a mile over non-motorized forms of transportation because the majority of infrastructure in place has been designed around the automobile. Twenty-five percent of all trips made in the United States are less than one mile in length, and 75% of those short trips are made by automobile. Furthermore, our population is becoming less active and more obese. Sixty four percent of the U.S. population is critically overweight. A lack of physical activity is thought to be a significant contributor to being overweight. Communities can no longer afford to ignore the importance of providing accommodations for pedestrians, bicyclists and those seeking recreation opportunities.

National trends demonstrate poor pedestrian planning in communities around the country. Harbor Countryd is not exempt from these same trends. As the demand for non-motorized transportation has increased, Harbor Country has realized the shortfalls in their own system. The consequences are most apparent in the summer when many pedestrians and bicyclists are using the streets and roadways for recreational purposes.

Harbor Country has recognized that it has a responsibility to develop a non-motorized transportation plan to provide a blueprint for the development of safe and efficient pedestrian facilities primarily due to the efforts of Larry FrankIe who created the Friends of Harbor Country Trails 50lC3 organization to begin this visionary process.

Harbor Country has a tremendous opportunity to develop an extensive non-motorized transportation network that will improve the quality of life in this area for both visitors and residents. When individuals and families make decisions about where they want to live and recreate, the availability of trails and other recreational facilities become important in their decision making process.

Over the past 10 years, Harbor Country has seen high growth rates along the Lake Michigan shoreline. New Buffalo has experienced the highest growth rate of 10% since 2000. In contrast to this growth, Three Oaks has experienced a 5% decline in population since 2000. The increase in growth along the lakeshore has created an increase in automobile traffic and the demand for non-motorized transportation is apparent. Increased numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists (Apple Cider Century) are found in this area using the existing roadways, especiallv on Over the past 10 years, Harbor Country has seen high growth rates along the Lake Michigan shoreline. New Buffalo has experienced the highest growth rate of 10% since 2000. In contrast to this growth, Three Oaks has experienced a 5% decline in population since 2000. The increase in growth along the lakeshore has created an increase in automobile traffic and the demand for non-motorized transportation is apparent. Increased numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists (Apple Cider Century) are found in this area using the existing roadways, especially on Lakeshore Drive. While the population trends in Three Oaks has declined over the past 10 years, recent interest in the wine industry and agri-tourism has created an increase in visitors to Three Oaks.

Creating safe places for people to walk and bicycle is critical in developing a successful community and for providing an opportunity for people to become more active. There are many modes of non~motorized transportation. A sidewalk system is functional and provides walking routes within neighborhoods or business districts, but it does not safely accommodate bicyclists. They often also neglect the experience of the user. The bikeway or bike lane places bicyclists within the roadway and provides a safe way for bicyclists to connect to the local road network and places outside their immediate community. Bikeways and bike lanes neglect the pedestrian and are typically not the most scenic routes as they are located immediately adjacent to automobile traffic. A shared use path accommodates both pedestrian and bicycles. It allows users to travel outside the road right~of~way on a more scenic route. Shared use paths are not always feasible in more populated areas and urban settings.

The Harbor Country Hike & Bike Plan, here after referred to as the "Hike & Bike Plan," focuses on creating a network of sidewalks, shared use paths, bikeways and bike lanes that will link neighborhood communities, business districts, schools and parks. The main purpose of the plan is to provide a common vision and encourage coordination between agencies for future planning efforts.