November 22, 2016
Give a Little, Get a lot…
What a year it’s been for trails in Michigan!
What we have accomplished together through the Alliance has been simply remarkable. And what Michigan has in store for next year as more great trail ideas become realities, will capture the imaginations of trail users everywhere.
In a moment I will tell you these great stories, but first, I want to remind you how we got here, and that’s through the generous and ongoing commitments from trail lovers like you. Thank you for your support, your contributions have helped define, drive and sustain this work.
Just read on to see how.
From Great Lake-to-Lake Dream to Reality
One of our major goals has been to connect Michigan’s thousands of miles of individual trails into continuous cross-state trails. On this front we have great news as 2018 will mark the official opening of the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails, a cross-state trail project we began in 2007. The route, from South Haven to Port Huron, will be 75 percent on multiuse off-road paths with the balance on bicycle-friendly roads.
Our long-range goal (much like the ever-changing Appalachian Trail) will be to improve the route as alternatives for better safety, off-road options, and increased scenic beauty present themselves.
Our next job on the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails is a comprehensive wayfinding project, providing 250+ miles of signage, coordinated with the fifteen individual trails – plus the section that overlaps with the new Iron Belle Trail. It’s a seriously big job and it needs your support.
Ringing In the Iron Belle
During 2018, you will see several major ribbon-cuttings for completed sections on the 2,064-mile cross-state Iron Belle Trail. The Iron Belle offers two routes from Belle Isle across the Mackinac Bridge to Ironwood in the western UP – a 1,273-mile trek for hiking and a 791-mile bicycling route. Over the next two years, the following Iron Belle bicycling route gaps will be closed:
- Connect the Paint Creek and Polly Ann Trails
- Atlas Township to Grand Blanc path completion
- The Grand Traverse Greenway in Flint
- Close the Flint River Trail to Southern Links Trail gap
- Oscoda to Hale Pathway
- Complete the Higgins Lake Pathway
- A trail connection in Gladstone along Little Bay de Noc
And by the end of 2018, the Iron Belle hiking trail will also see extensive work and connections made:
- The Detroit Riverwalk segment along the site formerly owned by Uniroyal
- Extension of the Albion River Trail through the campus at Albion College
- Sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) stabilized near Kalamazoo
- The Bear River Pedestrian Bridge in Petoskey
- Improved boardwalk near Tahquamenon Falls State Park
- Bridge over the Blind Sucker River in Luce County
- Bridge repair at Laughing Whitefish Falls
- The Marquette section of the NCT
- Construction of a trail on the way to O Kun de Kun Falls in Ontonagon
- Two new bridges at Bush Creek and Little Iron River
MTGA has also been instrumental in setting up a way for the Iron Belle Trail to receive private donations to match the public grants that communities need to complete their segments throughout the state.
Keeping Trails Maintained and Healthy
Trail maintenance funding is another MUST for Michigan’s trails to keep them in tiptop shape. It’s important for safety from physical hazards, protection from deterioration, erosion and safety from potential crime (maintained trails often deters wrongdoing). Local funding for trail maintenance is a challenge for many communities. On the other hand, trail users often indicate a willingness to chip in to keep the system healthy for future generations.
MTGA is working on solutions. We are pursuing a host of ideas and programs that could help provide resources and volunteer power to support a system that is worthy of the ranking as the #1 Trail State in the nation. In several regions, we have seen trail volunteers become an engaged force. Through their impassioned and steadfast commitment. volunteers work to keep trails looking great; add improvements such as benches, gardens, and signage; generate donations and additional volunteers. MTGA’s aim is to foster more of these programs.
Invest in the Future
The trails movement in Michigan is maturing to its full value through MTGA’s leadership and expertise at the state and local level. However, we need an extra boost now to continue to address trail needs today and into the future.If you enjoy your local trail, bear in mind: it took advocacy, know-how and dollars to put it on the ground. Don’t let Michigan’s trails dissipate through a lack of connections, sub-par maintenance, or ignorance of trail benefits. Help us maximize the investment of people and resources that brought them to life. With your contribution, we can lead Michigan to new standards of trail excellence. Your Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is the only statewide group working everyday all day to build, connect, promote, and protect our Michigan’s nonmotorized trails. I’ll count on your support to help us continue this important work.
P. S. This October we tried a different approach for our annual meeting with the theme Trails for Everyone. The gathering featured an expo of alternative types of bicycles for members to try and a panel discussion addressing the use of electric bikes on our trails. We are planning to feature a different trails topic each year in an interactive setting for our members. It is a great way for us to get to know you. Thanks to all who attended and, for all those who couldn’t make it, we hope to see you next year.
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