MARQUETTE - Gov. Rick Snyder has directed state agencies to work toward developing a roughly 900-mile signature hiking and biking trail running from downstate Belle Isle to Ironwood.
In his message on "Ensuring Our Future: Energy and the Environment" delivered this week, Snyder said Michigan has more total trail miles than just about any other state.
"Much of the credit goes to volunteers who have shoveled, raked, trimmed and groomed these trails on their own time and often at their own expense," Snyder said. "This shows the real appetite Michiganders have for quality trails and points to the opportunity we have to be the number one trail state."
The beautiful waters of Lake Superior, shown along the Lakeshore Trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, would be among the attractions visible from a 923-mile trail being developed by state agencies and championed by Gov. Rick Snyder. State officials said the trail could be completed within the next five years. (Journal file photo)
Snyder said he was directing the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Michigan Snowmobile and Trail Advisory Committee, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Michigan Department of Transportation to align and prioritize their efforts to support and create trail connections.
"All these entities will reach out to local communities as partners, helping them to maximize the economic return from trail use," Snyder said. "We can and will seek to make Michigan the trail state."
As such, Snyder said Michigan needs "a showcase trail that celebrates these efforts and pulls together private and public trails into a signature Pure Michigan experience," Snyder said. "With the addition of approximately 200 miles of additional trails in the Lower Peninsula and the U.P., we could hike or bike from Belle Isle to the Wisconsin border."
Snyder said he was directing the DNR to focus on connecting those trails - which include segments of the Lakeshore Trail and North Country Trail in the Upper Peninsula - through cooperation with private and non-profit partners and the use of their own resources.
The trail connections would be developed across a patchwork of state, federal and private lands, with easements necessary in some areas. Cost estimates for the trail were still being developed, along with a name for the trail.
"There's probably 240 miles in gaps," said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR's Parks and Recreation Division.
Olson said the trail could likely be finished within the next three to five years, "if everything goes well." Most of the trail would be gravel and in some places, paved.
Only non-motorized uses would be allowed in some areas, such as the North Country Trail. But in others, snowmobiles may be able to connect to the trail for wintertime use, Olson said.
The idea for the trail developed out of state agencies first looking at connecting trails in the Detroit area, with an eye to connecting trailways north. Eventually, the idea to develop the trail all the way to Wisconsin was an idea Snyder liked and got behind.
"It was really one of those synergy things," Olson said. "And kind of a bigger vision."
Joking, Snyder told an audience in Hickory Corners this week he didn't know what they'd do once they reached the Mackinac Bridge via the trail. Snyder said you're on your own for those five miles.
Olson said cost estimates were being developed for creating the trail. In some places, infrastructure improvements, including culverts or bridges, would likely be needed. Other costs could include easements or land purchases or swaps requiring legal work.
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