City of Walker
Residents call Walker’s downtown Standale, and its main street is M–45 (Lake Michigan Drive). The 6.5-mile-long Fred Meijer Standale Trail (FMST) connects the Walker Ice Arena with Kent County’s Millennium Park, and crosses busy M-45 in Standale. There are 600 apartments, hundreds of condos, and two bus stops where M-45 and the FMST meet. People often risked crossing M–45 there, and Walker officials feared a serious accident or fatality was inevitable.
In 2000, Walker began working to make the crossing safe, and decided on a tunnel. The task was daunting and at times seemed impossible. But, after countless public forums, backyard meetings, fundraising, and grant writing, Walker opened its new trail tunnel under M-45 in 2016. Commuters, Grand Valley State University students, recreationalists, and residents all enjoy the FMST.
The new tunnel opening is 14-ft.-wide and 10-ft.-tall. It features a pedestrian plaza, a stacked stone retaining wall, security cameras, lighting, and landscaping.
The Fred Meijer Standale Trail Tunnel project was not easy to accomplish; there were years of challenges we had to overcome. However, we knew we could be successful because other communities, such as the City of Greenville, accomplished the same task. Meijer Corporation also built a pedestrian tunnel at their corporate headquarters in Walker just two years earlier. The design concept of a tunnel is not complicated; it can be utilized anywhere and designed to fit the needs of the area. My advice for any community leaders who want a tunnel like ours is this: perseverance is the name of the game. There will be groups who oppose the idea, but they will never complain about it once it’s complete. Achieving the funding demands is possible with total community effort, as well as public and private partnerships. Don’t be afraid to ask for funding support.
Creativity and Originality:
It’s more than just a tunnel. It is a ‘place’. It is safe, well-lit and has a park-like feel with the added amenities surrounding it. In the future, there will be a mural on the walls. We hope to engage various schools in the community to participate in the designs.
The Fred Meijer Standale Trail has expanded the opportunities for both for Walker residents and others in West Michigan to explore the community. Trail users who previously stayed south of the tunnel now have access to the north trails, and vice versa. It connects the community and encourages outsiders to explore the greater regional trails network. In addition, the regional public transportation system, The Rapid, has incorporated station platforms on each side of the tunnel into the designs of the newest Laker Line Bus Rapid Transit route, which is tentatively schedule for construction in 2019. The business community has been very supportive of the tunnel, which anchors our downtown district. They believe the tunnel will enhance commerce and support additional placemaking efforts.