Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 19, 2014

Man plans canopy walkway through the trees

TRAVERSE CITY — Northern Michigan’s trees are a big draw for visitors, but it can be a challenge to experience such vibrant foliage at eye level.

Mark Evans, a resident of British Columbia, hopes to sharpen that focus by building a canopy walk, or a pathway along the upper level of the forest in Leelanau County’s Kasson Township. Evans built several such walkways around the world, albeit on a larger scale.

“It takes people through the forest and exposes them in a way they’ve not seen it before,” Evans said. “Everyone has seen it at ground level, but very few people have walked through the canopy level.”

The walk would be the first of its kind in North America. Evans has a vision for the project, called the Sleeping Bear Air Walk, to be both a tourist attraction and an educational tool for local students.

Evans expects the nonprofit would charge somewhere around $15 for adults and $9 for children. But some locals are wary that the project could be a blemish on the area’s bucolic atmosphere.

Last month, Evans and his business partner Bob Barnes shared their canopy idea with the Kasson Township Planning Commission, though they’ve yet to file a formal application to build such an attraction. Evans said he’s trying to pull together an estimate of the project’s cost over the next few weeks and expects it to be between $4 and $6 million.

The walkway would weave through an 83-acre parcel near Fritz and Baatz roads with an average elevation of 60 feet. Twelve towers would be installed to support the 2,000-foot-long path.

The area is zoned for residential development, and Evans would need to apply for an outdoor recreational establishment permit, said Mike Lanham,

Kasson Township’s zoning administrator.

Evans said the walkway likely would be open from May through October.

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