Oxford Township will continue expanding its safety path system this year as part of its ongoing efforts to help its residents become more physically active, the community become greener and the roads less congested.
"It’s all about quality of life," said Jack Curtis, chairman of the township’s Economic Development Subcommittee. "We don’t want to be one of those communities where the only way to get from Point A to Point B is behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. That’s old school thinking. We’re all about encouraging people to slow down and appreciate more of life as a pedestrian."
This year, the township plans to invest $435,000 to construct an additional 5,400 feet of safety paths.
"More and more people want to be able to walk, run or ride their bikes to places within their own community," said EDSC member Todd Bell. "Some people do it because they want to lead healthier life-styles. Some do it because they want to reduce pollution by driving their vehicles less. And some do it just because its a fun way to relax and spend time with their family."
Oxford also plans to spend $50,000 to design and acquire easements for the eventual construction of another 6,600 feet of path that will lead straight to Seymour Lake Township Park, a 125-acre park that includes a splash pad, supersized playground, multiple athletic fields, picnic pavilions, a basketball court and a disc golf course.
"Connecting a safety path to a park is a natural fit," Curtis said. "Folks who use safety paths are generally the same folks who spend time enjoying fresh air and sunshine at local parks. It makes sense to make it easier for them to get there."
The township’s current safety path network consists of nearly 10 miles of 8-foot-wide asphalt and concrete sections that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Using a combination of township dollars, federal funds and contributions from local businesses and developers, we’ve been able to create an extensive system that serves the needs of all residents without levying any additional taxes to make it happen," said EDSC member Ed Hunwick. "I think that says something about the township’s fiscal responsibility and creativity when it comes to accomplishing its goals."
"The township treasurer, Joe Ferrari, who chairs the safety path committee, deserves a lot of credit for aggressively pursuing outside funding sources such as federal dollars," Hunwick noted.
Back in 2009, the township received $447,968 in federal stimulus funds to construct a 3,900-foot safety path.
In addition to safety paths, the township also has the 14.2-mile Polly Ann Trail running straight through the heart of it, connecting Oxford to neighboring Addison and Orion townships.
The non-motorized trail is very popular among walkers, joggers, runners, hikers, bicyclists and equestrians.
The Polly Ann Trail includes a handicap-accessible pedestrian bridge that allows users to easily and safely cross M-24 in downtown Oxford.
"We’re very fortunate to have access to this scenic trail in our township," Curtis said. "It benefits our residents. It benefits our local businesses. And it makes Oxford a more desirable place to live and raise a family. Who doesn’t want to live near a trail?"
The township has a safety path master plan, which it will continue to follow and update in the coming years as its pedestrian network expands.
"We’re very big on planning in Oxford," Bell said. "Projects and goals are more likely to be accomplished when there’s a plan in place to help make them happen. Sooner or later, all those safety paths will be built because we created and followed a plan."
Oxford Township is home to 20,526 residents (including Oxford Village) and experienced the third highest population growth (28.2 percent) in Oakland County based on the 2010 U.S. Census. Its diverse business community ranges from a revitalized downtown district to a healthy manufacturing sector. For two straight years, the village was recognized by a University of Michigan-Dearborn study as one of the top communities in the state when it comes to fostering economic development and entrepreneurial growth.
Oxford is served by a full-time, professional fire department, which currently holds the record for the fastest cardiac care time in the county.
Oxford Community Schools is the first public school district in Michigan to receive PreK-12 authorization from the International Baccalaureate organization.