Enhancing Michigan’s amazing network of recreational trails: Part 2

A coalition of over 75 northern Michigan businesses, governments, and agencies are working together to create tools to assist trail users in finding and enjoying Michigan’s incredible trail system.

In Part One, we covered the state of Michigan’s efforts to create a state trail plan to accommodate all types of trail users and provide for ongoing development and maintenance of the trail system. Staff from the MDNR and NEMCOG recently presented information about efforts to enhance trail usage to county commissioners in northern Michigan at a program facilitated by Michigan State University Extension.

Governor Snyder’s 2012 Energy and Environment Speech called for creation of a statewide bicycle trail. MDNR, MDOT, MEDC, and MDARD have developed a draft plan which was approved by the Governor’s office in August 2013, and key stakeholder conversations are ongoing.

So, how do we promote those 12,000 miles of trails to capture potential economic benefits for communities near them, and to maximize the trail experience of trail users? The Up North Trails Collaborative is a group of over 75 partners who have banded together to promote all trails together under one program. Denise Cline, Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, is coordinating the program.

The first step is to develop a comprehensive asset database which can be built into a one stop web portal with details about all types of trail systems. The group gathered input from 7 types of trail stakeholders, including hiking, ski, snowshoe, horse, biking, snowmobile and ORV users on two key elements of trails. The elements are lines and points. Line information includes such things as surface type, terrain, access points, scenic vistas and many more kinds of information about the trials themselves. Point information includes lodging, food, retail, camping and many other details about points along the way. These are being incorporated into an interactive trail database web site to assist potential trail users in planning their trips. Part of phase two of the project is to make this available on mobile platforms for use along the trail.

Up North Trails Site

Another key element of phase two is the Trail Towns pilot project. Pilot communities are: Alpena, Mackinaw City, Topinabee, Grayling and Atlanta. This program will work to encourage trail users to get off the trail and into town, welcome trail users to the town, educate local businesses on trail users needs, recruit businesses and promote the trail friendly character of the town.

Phases 3, 4, and 5 include additional assets being built into the database, educational workshops, partnerships with existing ad campaigns such as Pure Michigan, and a plan for long term management, maintenance, and funding for the program.

For more information as the program develops, check out Up North Trails on the NEMCOG web site, or the Up North Trails Facebook page.

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