Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 21, 2012

Heritage Trail section opens to cyclists

GLEN ARBOR — Safety. Access. Those words were oft-repeated in the Glen Arbor business district and at the Dune Climb on grand opening day of the first five paved miles of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for the community," said Georgia Gietzen, who owns Northwood Hardware there with husband Jeff and business partners Dee and Steve Schucker. "It will give safe access to the National Park for families and children and people in wheelchairs. It's really an inclusive project."

The new non-motorized, wheelchair accessible trail is the first of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's 100 trails to allow bicycles. Until now, bicyclists have had to ride along the shoulders of M-22, M-109, M-204 and other existing roads in the 71,000-acre park.

The first section of Heritage Trail connects the Dune Climb, Glen Haven, D. H. Day Camp, Alligator Hill and Glen Arbor. The remaining 22 miles are scheduled to be built over the next two to three years to link with Empire and Port Oneida Rural Historic District.

Several people in and around Glen Arbor discussed the trail and the local economy. The area, most believe, seems busier since the Lakeshore was voted the "Most Beautiful Place in the World" in a national media contest last year.

"We won't really know the effect until after this summer," said Matt Wiesen, who owns the new Cyclery in town with his wife Kathy. "I'm sure rentals will increase. The great thing about the trail, whether you are biking or not, is that people will come to use it and they will need gas, food, and places to stay.

Bicycling also will offer a longer tourist season for local businesses. Others noted that the trail also will be groomed in the winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoes.

Ranae Ihme at Leelanau Vacation Rentals saw a 13 percent upswing in rentals and in property sales this year.

"I've already sold 11 places since the beginning of the year," she said. "We usually see about 12 properties a year."

The trail's original estimated cost is about $10 million over a decade. So far, more than $6 million in federal and state transportation and highway grants have been raised,as well as about $1 million in private donations.

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