Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

March 30, 2014

State officials launch tourism initiative to promote trail network

LANSING — Information for all Michigan trails – including those on the water – would soon be available at the click of a button under legislation recently introduced by lawmakers.

That kind of accessibility is part of the Department of Natural Resource’s plan to attract tourists to Michigan’s trails by improving them and making them easier to find.

Lawmakers recently introduced a package of five bills that would label all state trails as Pure Michigan trails, use “trail towns” to connect trails between communities and make trail information available both on a computer and through an app.

The department worked closely with the Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance to develop the plan and the legislation to implement it.

The legislation also includes a bill that would take the snowmobile specification out of the Michigan snowmobile and trails advisory council.

“We are trying to get away from the impression of putting one trail above the other,” said Rep. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba who sponsored the bill. “All trails are important and should be looked at equally.

The change is noncontroversial.

“The makeup of the council is still going to be the same and it will still be a committee that looks at trails in the state,” said Bill Manson, executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association. “We understand that other trail groups have had problems with the specification so we have no problem changing it.”

The legislation would also create a Pure Michigan water trail designation.

“Waterways should be recognized with activities like canoeing and kayaking,” Casperson said.

Michigan has some of the best statewide trail systems in the country,” said Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, a sponsor for one bill. “We wanted to enhance that by branding them with Pure Michigan.”

Michigan is the leading state in old railroad routes that have been converted into public trails, said Jim Radabaugh, state trails coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. More than 2,700 miles of such rail trails have been created.

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