Trail Management Councils in Michigan

Statutory Authorization

Question:

Can governmental agencies, including the state, city, county and township governmental units form a trail management council to operate and maintain trails that are located on land owned or under the control of those governmental agencies?

 

Short Answer:

Yes:

The Michigan Trailways Act at MCL 324.72106 specifically authorizes the creation of trail management councils pursuant to the Urban Cooperation Act at (MCL 124.501 to 124.512).

MCL 324.7106 specifically provides that such councils may operate and maintain that portion of 1 or more trails that are owned or under the control of the governmental agencies establishing the council, operate and maintain that portion of 1 or more trails that are located on state owned land, coordinate the enforcement of trail rules and regulations and other applicable laws and ordinances, including permitted uses of the trail on trails owned or under the control of the governmental agencies establishing the council or, pursuant to an agreement under section 72105, trails that are located on state owned land.

In addition, councils may receive any grant made from the fund or other funding related to that portion of a trail within its jurisdiction, acquire or hold real property for the purpose of operating a trail and perform other functions consistent with this part.*

Further the Urban Cooperation Act outlines the procedures for the sharing and distribution of power that public agencies possess and how a council, commission or other legal entity may be formed to provide for how those public agencies may work together. The act outlines how such a council is formed, how it is organized, how it conducts its business, how it acquires and maintains real property, how it accepts grants and gifts and other matters that the law provides. The power and authority provided to public agencies organizing under that act will be summarized below.

In addition, Trails Councils have also been created pursuant to the state’s Recreational Authorities Act and the powers and authority provided under that act are similar in nature and scope to the Urban Cooperation Act and will be summarized below. Although the authority is more limited in scope and does not include the state as a participating entity, this act has been used in areas of the state to create multiple jurisdiction trails under the authority provided in the act for the creation of authorities for the purposes of constructing and maintaining parks with parks including foot and bicycle paths.

 

*SB 596 (Hansen) currently is on third reading in the House of Representatives will add specific new authority for trail councils to also review and consider issues related to maintenance, signage, history-telling, trail etiquette, how to link to water trails and mass transit opportunities.

 

Long Answer:

Michigan law at MCL 324.72102 specifically provides for the creation of a statewide system of trails to link communities, parks, and natural resources and enhance local and state economies, among other purposes. In addition, the planning and development and operation of this system of trails has been declared by the legislature to be a public purpose.

 

324.72102 Legislative findings.

Sec. 72102.

The legislature finds that a statewide system of trails will provide for public enjoyment, health, and fitness; encourage constructive leisure-time activities; protect open space, cultural and historical resources, and habitat for wildlife and plants; enhance the local and state economies; link communities, parks, and natural resources; create opportunities for rural-urban exchange, agricultural education, and the marketing of farm products; and preserve corridors for possible future use for other public purposes. Therefore, the planning, acquisition, development, operation, and maintenance of trails are in the best interest of this state and are a public purpose.

 

In addition, the legislature has specifically authorized the creation of trail management councils to help in the management and operation of trails that cut across various political jurisdictions so that consistency of operation can be maintained.

MCL 324.7106 specifically provides that such councils may operate and maintain that portion of 1 or more trails that are owned or under the control of the governmental agencies establishing the council, operate and maintain that portion of 1 or more trails that are located on state owned land, coordinate the enforcement of trail rules and regulations and other applicable laws and ordinances, including permitted uses of the trail on trails owned or under the control of the governmental agencies establishing the council or, pursuant to an agreement under section 72105, trails that are located on state owned land.

In addition, councils may receive any grant made from the fund or other funding related to that portion of a trail within its jurisdiction, acquire or hold real property for the purpose of operating a trail and perform other functions consistent with this part.

 

324.72106 Trail management council; establishment; purpose; adopting operating procedures and electing officers; powers; dissolution.

Sec. 72106.

(1) Two or more governmental agencies may establish a trail management council for the development and management of a trail pursuant to the urban cooperation act of 1967, 1967 (Ex Sess) PA 7, MCL 124.501 to 124.512.

(2) Upon formation, a council shall adopt operating procedures and shall elect officers as the council considers appropriate.

(3) A council may do 1 or more of the following as authorized in an interlocal agreement entered into pursuant to the urban cooperation act of 1967, 1967 (Ex Sess) PA 7, MCL 124.501 to 124.512:

(a) Operate and maintain that portion of 1 or more trails that are owned or under the control of the governmental agencies establishing the council.

(b) Pursuant to an agreement under section 72105, operate and maintain that portion of 1 or more trails that are located on state owned land.

(c) Coordinate the enforcement of trail rules and regulations and other applicable laws and ordinances, including permitted uses of the trail on trails owned or under the control of the governmental agencies establishing the council or, pursuant to an agreement under section 72105, trails that are located on state owned land.

(d) Receive any grant made from the fund or other funding related to that portion of a trail within its jurisdiction.

(e) Acquire or hold real property for the purpose of operating a trail.

(f) Perform other functions consistent with this part.

(4) A council may be dissolved by the governmental agencies that participated in creating the council. However, if a council has entered into an agreement with the department under section 72105, the agreement shall specify how the council may be dissolved.

 

Pursuant to the Urban Cooperation Act, those parties who are participants in the agreement can agree to a variety of authorizations to act ranging from the broad purposes of the agreement, to the duration of the agreement, the precise organization, composition and nature of any separate legal entity created in the agreement, the acquisition, ownership, custody, operation, maintenance, lease, or sale of real or personal property and the acceptance of gifts, grants, assistance funds, or bequests and the manner in which those gifts, grants, assistance funds, or bequests may be used for the purpose set forth in the interlocal agreement.

Beyond that the law also allows for a broad authorization to complete and conduct any other necessary and proper matters agreed upon by the participating public agencies.

 

Sec. 2.

As used in this act:

(a) “Interlocal agreement” means an agreement entered into under this act.

(b) “Local governmental unit” means a county, city, village, township, or charter township.

(c) “Province” means a province of Canada.

(d) “Property” means any real or personal property, as described in section 34c of the general property tax act, 1893 PA 206, MCL 211.34c.

(e) “Public agency” means a political subdivision of this state or of another state of the United States or of Canada, including, but not limited to, a state government; a county, city, village, township, charter township, school district, single or multipurpose special district, or single or multipurpose public authority; a provincial government, metropolitan government, borough, or other political subdivision of Canada; an agency of the United States government; or a similar entity of any other states of the United States and of Canada. As used in this subdivision, agency of the United States government includes an Indian tribe recognized by the federal government before 2000 that exercises governmental authority over land within this state, except that this act or any intergovernmental agreement entered into under this act shall not authorize the approval of a class III gaming compact negotiated under the Indian gaming regulatory act, Public Law 100-497, 102 Stat. 2467.

(f) “State” means a state of the United States.

Sec. 4.

A public agency of this state may exercise jointly with any other public agency of this state, with a public agency of any other state of the United States, with a public agency of Canada, or with any public agency of the United States government any power, privilege, or authority that the agencies share in common and that each might exercise separately.

 

Sec. 5.

(1) A joint exercise of power pursuant to this act shall be made by contract or contracts in the form of an interlocal agreement which may provide for:

(a) The purpose of the interlocal agreement or the power to be exercised and the method by which the purpose will be accomplished or the manner in which the power will be exercised.

(b) The duration of the interlocal agreement and the method by which it may be rescinded or terminated by any participating public agency prior to the stated date of termination.

(c) The precise organization, composition, and nature of any separate legal entity expressly created in the interlocal agreement with the powers designated to that entity.

(d) The manner in which the parties to the interlocal agreement will provide for financial support from the treasuries that may be made for the purpose set forth in the interlocal agreement, payments of public funds that may be made to defray the cost of such purpose, advances of public funds that may be made for the purposes set forth in the interlocal agreements and repayment of the public funds, and the personnel, equipment, or property of 1 or more of the parties to the agreement that may be used in lieu of other contributions or advances.

(e) The manner in which funds may be paid to and disbursed by any separate legal entity created pursuant to the interlocal agreement.

(f) A method or formula for equitably providing for and allocating revenues, including, in the case of an authorized undertaking that is publicly owned at the time the interlocal agreement is entered into or becomes publicly owned during the time the interlocal agreement is in effect, revenues derived by or payable to any participating party or any other public agency which revenues directly or indirectly result from that undertaking, whether the revenues are in the form of ad valorem taxes on real or personal property, taxes on income, specific taxes or funds made available by the state in lieu of ad valorem property taxes or local income taxes, any other form of taxation, assessment, levy, or impost, or any money paid under or which revert from a tax increment financing plan. The interlocal agreement may also provide a method or formula equitably providing for and allocating revenues derived from a federal or state grant or loan, or from a gift, bequest, grant, or loan from a private source. The interlocal agreement may also provide for a method or formula for equitably allocating and financing the capital and operating costs, including payments to reserve funds authorized by law and payments of principal and interest on obligations. Each method or formula shall be established by the participating parties to the interlocal agreement on a ratio of full valuation of real property, on the basis of the amount of services rendered or to be rendered, on the basis of benefits received or conferred or to be received or conferred, or on any other equitable basis, including the levying of taxes or assessments on the entire area serviced by the parties to the interlocal agreement, subject to such limitations as may be contained in the constitution and statutes of this state, to pay those capital and operating costs.

(g) The public agency that will function as the employer of personnel and staff needed for the joint exercise of power.

(h) The fixing and collecting of charges, rates, rents, fees, loan repayments, loan interest rates, or other charges on loans, where appropriate, and the making and promulgation of necessary rules and regulations and their enforcement by or with the assistance of the participating parties to the interlocal agreement.

(i) The manner in which purchases shall be made and contracts entered into.

(j) The acquisition, ownership, custody, operation, maintenance, lease, or sale of real or personal property.

(k) The disposition, division, or distribution of any property acquired through the execution of such interlocal agreement.

(l) The manner in which, after the completion of the purpose of the interlocal agreement, any surplus money shall be returned.

(m) The acceptance of gifts, grants, assistance funds, or bequests and the manner in which those gifts, grants, assistance funds, or bequests may be used for the purpose set forth in the interlocal agreement.

(n) The making of claims for federal or state aid payable to the individual or several participants on account of the execution of the interlocal agreement.

(o) The manner of responding for any liabilities that might be incurred through performance of the interlocal agreement and insuring against any such liability.

(p) The adjudication of disputes or disagreements, the effects of failure of participating parties to pay their shares of the costs and expenses, and the rights of the other participants in such cases.

(q) The manner in which strict accountability of all funds shall be provided for and the manner in which reports, including an annual independent audit, of all receipts and disbursements shall be prepared and presented to each participating party to the interlocal agreement.

(r) The manner of investing surplus funds or proceeds of grants, gifts, or bequests to the parties to the interlocal agreement under the control of a legal entity created under section 7.

(s) Any other necessary and proper matters agreed upon by the participating public agencies.

 

Importantly, the Urban Cooperation Act specifically authorizes the creation of a separate legal entity in the form of a commission or council to make binding decisions for the benefit of the parties through the creation of an interlocal agreement. This is consistent with the specific authorization of Trail Management Councils in 324.72106.

The separate legal entity created by an interlocal agreement shall possess the common power specified in the agreement and may exercise it in the manner or according to the method provided in the agreement. The separate legal entity may also make and enter into contracts; employ agencies or employees; acquire, construct, manage, maintain, or operate buildings, works, or improvements; acquire, hold, or dispose of property; incur debts, liabilities, or obligations that, except as expressly authorized by the parties, do not constitute the debts, liabilities, or obligations of any of the parties to the agreement; cooperate with a public agency, an agency or instrumentality of that public agency, or another legal entity created by that public agency under this act; make loans from the proceeds of gifts, grants, assistance funds, or bequests pursuant to the terms of the interlocal agreement creating the entity; and form other entities necessary to further the purpose of the interlocal agreement. The separate legal entity may sue and be sued in its own name.

 

124.507 Separate legal entity; commission, board, or council; public body, corporate or politic; appointment and removal of members; operation for profit prohibited; earnings; title to property; powers; limitation; bonds or notes.

Sec. 7.

(1) An interlocal agreement may provide for a separate legal entity to administer or execute the agreement which may be a commission, board, or council constituted pursuant to the agreement. If an interlocal agreement does not expressly provide for a separate legal entity, then a separate legal entity shall not be created. If an interlocal agreement does expressly provide for a separate legal entity, the entity shall be a public body, corporate or politic for the purposes of this act. The governing body of each public agency shall appoint a member of the commission, board, or council constituted pursuant to the agreement. That member may be removed by the appointing governing body at will. The separate legal entity shall not be operated for profit. No part of its earnings shall inure to the benefit of a person other than the public agencies that created it. Upon termination of the interlocal agreement, title to all property owned by the entity shall vest in the public agencies that incorporated it.

(2) A separate legal entity created by an interlocal agreement shall possess the common power specified in the agreement and may exercise it in the manner or according to the method provided in the agreement. The separate legal entity may also make and enter into contracts; employ agencies or employees; acquire, construct, manage, maintain, or operate buildings, works, or improvements; acquire, hold, or dispose of property; incur debts, liabilities, or obligations that, except as expressly authorized by the parties, do not constitute the debts, liabilities, or obligations of any of the parties to the agreement; cooperate with a public agency, an agency or instrumentality of that public agency, or another legal entity created by that public agency under this act; make loans from the proceeds of gifts, grants, assistance funds, or bequests pursuant to the terms of the interlocal agreement creating the entity; and form other entities necessary to further the purpose of the interlocal agreement. The separate legal entity may sue and be sued in its own name.

(3) No separate legal entity created by an interlocal agreement shall possess the power or authority to levy any type of tax within the boundaries of any governmental unit participating in the interlocal agreement, or to issue any type of bond in its own name, or to in any way indebt a governmental unit participating in the interlocal agreement.

(4) A separate legal entity created by an interlocal agreement may be authorized by the interlocal agreement to borrow money and to issue bonds or notes in its name for local public improvements or for economic development purposes as provided in the interlocal agreement.

(5) The entity created by the interlocal agreement shall not borrow money or issue bonds or notes for a sum that, together with the total outstanding bonded indebtedness of the entity, exceeds 2 mills of the taxable value of the taxable property within the local governmental units participating in the interlocal agreement as determined under section 27a of the general property tax act, 1893 PA 206, MCL 211.27a.

(6) Bonds or notes issued under this act are a debt of the entity created by the interlocal agreement and not of the participating local governmental units.

(7) Bonds or notes issued under this act are declared to be issued for an essential public and governmental purpose and, together with interest on those bonds or notes and income from those bonds or notes, are exempt from all taxes.

(8) Bonds or notes issued under this act are subject to the revised municipal finance act, 2001 PA 34, MCL 141.2101 to 141.2821.

 

The Michigan Recreational Authorities Act at MCL 123.1131 specifically allows for municipalities to create authorities for the purposes of acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance and improvement of parks which includes foot and bicycle and bridle paths. The act defines participating parties to be only municipalities which would not include the state of Michigan. There are requirements for organization, including preparation of articles of incorporation which lay out the names of the members, the size of the board and terms of the board and other procedural issues.

 

Sec. 5. (1) Two or more municipalities or districts may establish a recreational authority. A recreational authority is an authority under section 6 of article IX of the state constitution of 1963. (2) To initiate the establishment of an authority, articles of incorporation shall be prepared. The articles of incorporation shall include all of the following: (a) The name of the authority. (b) The names of the participating municipalities. (c) A description of the territory of the authority. (d) The size of the board of the authority, which shall be comprised of an odd number of members; the qualifications, method of selection, and terms of office of board members; and the filling of vacancies of board member.

(g) “Municipality” means a city, county, village, township, or school district. (h) “Park” means an area of land or water, or both, dedicated to 1 or more of the following uses: (i) Recreational purposes, including, but not limited to, landscaped tracts; picnic grounds; playgrounds; athletic fields; camps; campgrounds; zoological and botanical gardens; living historical farms; boating, hunting, fishing, and birding areas; swimming areas; and foot, bicycle, and bridle paths. (ii) Open or scenic space. (iii) Environmental, conservation, nature, or wildlife areas. (i) “Participating municipality” means a municipality or district that is named in articles of incorporation or proposed articles of incorporation as joining in the original establishment of an authority, or a municipality or district that joins an existing authority and is added to the articles of incorporation, and that has not withdrawn from the authority.

 

  1. e) The purposes for which the authority is established, which shall be the acquisition, construction, operation, maintenance, or improvement of 1 or more of the following: (i) A public swimming pool. (ii) A public recreation center. (iii) A public auditorium. (iv) A public conference center. (v) A public park. (vi) A public museum. (vii) A public historic farm. acquisition, construction, operation, maintenance, or improvement of a Park” means an area of land or water, or both, dedicated to 1 or more of the following uses: (i) Recreational purposes, including, but not limited to, landscaped tracts; picnic grounds; playgrounds; athletic fields; camps; campgrounds; zoological and botanical gardens; living historical farms; boating, hunting, fishing, and birding areas; swimming areas; and foot, bicycle, and bridle paths. (ii) Open or scenic space. (iii) Environmental, conservation, nature, or wildlife areas.

 

Best practices of existing state councils

Michigan statutory law provides for the creation of Trails Councils to allow for a consistent and coordinated management of a multiple-jurisdiction trail. When the Michigan Legislature passed the Trailways Act in 1993, it expressly provided for trails councils as a part of its vision for the development of a statewide system of trails.

The legislature took this concept of a trails council and provided further direction for those interested in fashioning a council by specifically referencing the current Urban Cooperation Act passed in 1967. This act laid out a broad range of authority and responsibility for those public agencies wishing to organize into one decision-making body. Under that act, Councils have different options that they can pursue:

  • Councils can be either advisory in nature or make binding decisions based on the will of the council.
  • Decisions made by a council may be by majority rule or may be mandated to be unanimous before any action can be taken.
  • Councils can initially organize in a set structure and can later transition to other structures later as the Council so decides.
  • Councils may be directly representative of each segment of trail ownership by a public agency or may be broader providing for the opportunity for one person to represent multiple key trail segments within a larger geographical area.
  • Councils may also have adjunct members who can serve in an advisory fashion but not be involved in decision-making. These members allow for a Council to consider other related issues that may be beyond the scope of participating members.

There are several prime examples of existing trails councils in Michigan that have evolved in a variety of ways and possess a variety of powers to carry out their specific mission.

 

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is managed by a Trails council that was established pursuant to the Recreational Authority Act. The trails council membership includes all municipal entities that own or manage the trail and the Council is run by a board that meets monthly to discuss a variety of ongoing issues. A unique aspect of this particular trails council is that they have resolved issues of use conflict by allowing for particular segments of their trail to allow for uses that reflect the desires of users in their municipality. In this way, the Council is able to still coalesce around larger issues while still reflecting individual needs. The council has direct representation from each municipality and their rules of procedure allow for binding decisions to be made with a simple majority vote of the board.

The Authority was created through the filing of the Articles of Incorporation in May of 2007 and according to Carol Fulsher, the Authority was successful in “Passing a .2 mill increase for the developing, managing and maintenance of the 47-mile Iron Ore Heritage Trail in 2010.  WE made sure the language was limited so that municipalities would not ask us to build other trails in their district.  We wanted to keep true to the “Iron Ore Heritage Trail” that crossed the County.  Our board is very committed to that.

The Board consists of one appointed person from each municipal member.  Each member serves for three years (we staggered board so not all are up for reappointment at same time).  We abide by the municipality’s guidelines—i.e.–Marquette only allows a person to serve two 3-year terms.  The person can be any registered vote within the municipality. We provide written communication at least annually to our municipal members and appear at board meetings as necessary. We do have to provide a 5-year recreation plan to the State.

The trail ownership is as follows:  25 miles State of Michigan and we have a lease as local manager.  15 miles municipality owned:  Ishpeming, Negaunee, Marquette.  We do not have formal arrangements with them but are working through easements in Negaunee and Ishpeming.  The Authority owns 6 miles of trail through property swap.  About a mile is through private property easements through downtown areas.

The portion of the Trail in state ownership west of Ishpeming is motorized-year-round (because of tax issue, we compromised on this issue due to wants of residents). The portion of the Trail in State ownership east of Ishpeming is open to snowmobiles Dec 1 – March 31. Otherwise non-motorized through a Director’s Order. The Trail is asphalt in urban areas and limestone in rural areas.  We maintain most of the trail through a combination of volunteers, paid contractors or municipalities department of public works staff.  Marquette does their own work because they existed before us and the work is a part of their contractual labor agreement. Although we have done some bigger work such as replace culverts and repair “slumpage” along Lake Superior.

We pay snowmobile and ORV groups to do tree and grass cutting west of Ishpeming.  We use our ORV funds for that, but pay them because they have the equipment. We have a volunteer xc ski groomer between Ishpeming and Negaunee.  The Authority pays for equipment and gas.  We have used County to secure MDOT funds when we built the 12-mile section between Negaunee and Marquette.”

 

The Paint Creek Trail

The Paint Creek Trailways Commission was formed as an intergovernmental agency in 1981 under the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967.  It is comprised of Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, and Orion Township.  The Paint Creek Trail is 8.9 miles long.

According to Kristen Myers who works for the Commission, “each community appoints an elected official Commissioner, and elected official alternate.  In addition, they each appoint a citizen Commissioner, and Citizen Alternate.  However, each community is limited to two votes only.  Often, our alternates attend every meeting, and they are usually the first to volunteer for ad-hoc committees, that meet to research, discuss, and make policy or project recommendations to the Commission. The Commission meets on the third Tuesday of each month, 12 months a year. Each Commissioner and Alternate are paid $35 per diem for attending the meeting.  They are not paid for ad-hoc committees, or anything else.”

The Commission has four officers-Chairman, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer.

The Commission has an annual budget of $100,000.  Each community, no matter what the length is in their community, pay approximately $17,500 each year toward operations.  A separate, smaller patrol budget is prorated by length of each community on the trail (one community pays around $1,000, another about $8,000).  The Commission also receives over $12,000 annually from utility and private license agreements for crossings on the trail.  The Commission does not give utility easements – only license agreements. In this way they maintain more control over the trail property, and generate income.

The intergovernmental agreement is referenced here:  Intergovernmental Agreement

Kristen indicates that the issue of maintenance is an important part of the agreement as “each community agrees to maintain their section of trail, and provide “in-kind” services to the Commission, to keep our budget low.  The budget is discussed and passed by the PCTC, then sent to each community for approval.  Their elected official Commissioners and Alternates are our advocates when the budget comes to their council or board for approval.”

 

The Betsie Valley Trail

The Betsie Valley Trailway Management Council was formed specifically under the Michigan Trailways Act statutory guidance with the creation of the council to operate and maintain the Betsie Valley Trail under the broad authority of the Urban Cooperation Act. Bill Olsen, who at the time was the head of the Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail and with whom I worked to develop the original legislation setting out the authority for Trails Councils in law, was one of the driving forces behind passage of the BVTMC. It was viewed as an important vehicle to coordinate all the municipal authorities that own or manage a portion of the trail, the County Board of Commissioners, the DNR and the Crystal Lake Property Rights Association, which had opposed the trail and continued to be concerned about the impact of the trail on private property rights.

According to John Rothar from the Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail, politics and a lack of funding to maintain the trail have interfered with the effectiveness of the BVTMC and that active participation by local units of government has become an issue. Although the structure of the Council is still in place, it takes a consistent commitment from board members to drive the success of the Council.

 

Conceptual Narrative of Trails Council construction—the Basic Steps

There are basic components of successful practices and procedures that can be gleaned from the best practices of existing trails councils.

The most significant early step that must be taken is to forge relationships of common interest and benefit and to develop mutual support for the fact that individual trails will likely prosper more when joined together into a common “greater” multi-jurisdiction trail.  Toward that end, an early gathering of existing trail managers should be convened to discuss a common vision for such a trail. A direct outgrowth of these early meetings should be to establish a set of early advocates to form as a core group that can lead the effort to organize.  This early group of stakeholders will be your advocates, and can start relationship-building which is a key foundation for the Council. From this group, the foundation of the actual membership of the Council will likely be formed.

At some early point in that discussion, there should be strategic planning meetings or visioning sessions with the public agencies that will likely comprise the core of the Council.  It is important according to some trail council managers that these sessions should include Department of Public Works departments and park departments along with appropriate elected officials. As a part of planning, there should be an effort to provide as much economic impact information as possible. Many of these individuals often don’t understand how much tourism dollars can mean to their communities.

At some point early in the organization of the Council, a review of the selected statutory vehicle for organization should be made and the decision made to fashion the Council after either the Urban Cooperation Act or the Recreational Authority Act.  The ensuing development of the Articles of Incorporation and by-laws will follow from this selection.

The basic format for creating the Articles of Incorporation and the ensuing By-Laws for a trails council could follow the process laid out by the Paint Creek Trail Commission:

  1. Reviewed Urban Cooperation Act of 1967 which provides a substantial set of direction for organization.
  2. Met and agreed on basic structure of agreement.
  3. Membership/Organizational structure, including officers and voting process
  4. Dissolution procedures
  5. How often to meet
  6. Authority of the group to own, lease, buy property, etc.
  7. The process to follow to amend the Council Agreement

Each public agency or member should designate or appoint a representative to serve on the Council along with several alternates. It can be difficult at times to get a quorum established and providing for alternates helps to ensure that there should always be a representative that can act in an official capacity for the member at Council meetings.

It is also important in the early stages to get the members to commit to at least meeting quarterly. Rotating meeting locations will get people interested in visiting each community and making a “field trip” part of each meeting is an important way to get all invested. As an important detail for meetings, compiling meeting agendas and packets and distributing the information at least 5 days in advance. 7. Obviously money will be biggest hurdle.

Respect the communities that push-back to the formation of a Council and be understanding of any concerns expressed during the organizing process by continually inviting them to all meetings and providing them with meeting minutes. Trying to address their concerns head on from the beginning is an important point and some have experienced significant delays in getting all communities on board.

After Council is formed, it is imperative to get a basic Master Plan written and approved. This will help the Council to stay focused on the goals, both short term and long term. In addition, it is considered a key to success of the Council to make sure that all Chambers of Commerce and Downtown Development Authorities are on board with your plan as economic impact will be catalyst for momentum.