Governor Rick Snyder recently proclaimed the week of Sept. 23-29 as the first official Michigan Trails Week, celebrating the state’s vast and varied network of motorized, non-motorized and water trails. In conjunction with the proclamation, the Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Recreation and Park Association and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance are partnering to sponsor a weeklong schedule of special events in communities throughout the state.
“Many people are surprised to hear that Michigan has more miles of rail-trails than any other state in the nation, and through these events, we encourage them to come out and explore all they have to offer,” said Nancy Krupiarz, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.
The week’s events will aim to bring attention to the health benefits of getting out and enjoying Michigan’s trails, as well as the economic impact they have on local communities.
“Michigan’s more than 12,000 miles of interconnected trails not only offer a place for hikers, bikers, equestrians, off-road vehicle (ORV) users, kayakers and snowmobilers to get out and enjoy their sport, they also offer Michiganders a pathway to a more healthy lifestyle,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “The fact that these trails also boost the economies of nearby communities makes them an even more valuable state resource.”
“Our goal is to identify Michigan as the ‘trail state’ and feature our tremendous, diverse trail system as one of the best trail destinations in the country,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation chief. “Michigan Trails Week is a great way to showcase this state’s tremendous outdoor recreation asset.”
A 2010 Michigan State University study detailing ORV use in Michigan determined that, statewide, ORV users annually spent more than $200 million on equipment and another $143 million on trips away from home to use their ORVs in Michigan. The study showed that ORV users’ travel activity alone supported some 800 jobs and generated an additional $54 million in economic revenue.
The Upper Peninsula’s ORV trails play a major part in Linda Schulz’s life, both recreationally and economically. Schulz and her husband have been enjoying “ORVing” in the U.P. for over 15 years — so much so that in 2007, they moved from Illinois and purchased the 14-acre Running Bear Resort in Paulding, Mich. The resort caters to ORVers and snowmobilers along with other sports enthusiasts. Schulz’ active lifestyle as an avid ORVer and snowmobiler also includes her role as secretary of Mi-TRALE, a 125-member ORV/snowmobile/equestrian club that meets in Bruce Crossing.
“We purchased the resort because of our love of the Upper Peninsula and the opportunity it offered to enjoy the U.P. lifestyle while making a living,” Schulz said. “Our proximity to two of the DNR’s trails definitely affects our bottom line.”
Schulz also sees how the trails improve the area’s economy. “I think ORVing is such a resource,” Schulz said. For eight months out of each year the trails bring people up here to have a good time.” She describes the delicate balance between the trail riders who travel to the U.P., and the local businesses they support. “People who come up to enjoy the trails are passionate about the U.P. and come here to enjoy the surroundings. We need the ORVers to keep these little towns going,” Schulz said. “When I send 14 ORVers over to a little deli in town for lunch, it’s a big deal for that business owner.”
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has been a major source of financial support for the trails. “The Trust Fund has awarded over $160 million in grants for trail acquisition and trail development to local units of government and the DNR,” said Steve DeBrabander, who manages the trust’s grants program. “Surveys of public outdoor recreation users have consistently indicated that trail use is the number one need, and the Trust Fund board has responded to that need by making trail acquisition and trail development a priority for the program.”
Michigan Trails Week’s schedule of walks, bike rides and ORV safety classes will culminate on Saturday, Sept. 29, with a statewide “work bee” observance of National Public Lands Day that will include trail cleanup, maintenance and other service projects in Michigan’s parks and trails. To learn more about the week’s activities, including a listing of events, visit www.michigan.gov/trailsweek.
More outdoor fun and exercise is available through the DNR’s Recreation 101 program, which provides expert instruction to budding outdoor enthusiasts by offering free, hands-on training in over 100 different activities. Learn about participating or becoming an instructor, at www.michigan.gov/rec101. The DNR also offers ongoing nature programming; check out the schedule at www.michigan.gov/natureprograms.
The Recreation Passport is an easy, affordable way for residents to enjoy and support outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan. By checking “YES” for the $10 Recreation Passport ($5 for motorcycles) when renewing a license plate through the Secretary of State (by mail, kiosk, online at www.expresssos.com or at branch offices), Michigan motorists get access to state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, non-motorized state trailhead parking and state boat launches. In addition, Recreation Passport holders can experience real savings at businesses and retailers that participate in the Passport Perks discount program. The Recreation Passport is valid until the next license plate renewal date. Nonresidents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($29 annual; $8 daily) at any state park or recreation area or through the Michigan e-Store at www.michigan.gov/estore.
Learn more about this creative way of sustaining Michigan’s outdoor recreation and natural resources at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport. For information on Passport Perks shopping discounts or how businesses and retailers can enroll in the program, visit www.michigan.gov/passportperks.
Logo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources