Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

December 24, 2012

Top 10: Expansion of trail system draws thousands of users

TRAVERSE CITY — The first leg of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a four-mile scenic stretch from the Dune Climb to Glen Arbor, opened in June.

By August, 3,000 users were enjoying the trail on a weekly basis, according to a trail users survey.

In July, TART Trails finished paving the final 6.5 miles of the 15.5-mile Leelanau Trail that connects Traverse City to Suttons Bay. Soon after, Suttons Bay businesses started noticing the trail's impact.

"It was phenomenal," said Pam Darling, TART's development director. "It was like the spigot opened up. All of sudden, Suttons Bay was inundated with bicyclists. It was great. All the businesses in Suttons Bay saw a market increase. Even the wineries along the trail had a lot more people on bicycles visiting. It was pretty incredible."

Expansion of the local non-motorized trail system in the Grand Traverse region — a system used by thousands of cyclists, walkers, runners, roller bladers, cross country skiers — and its instant impact is our No. 9 story of 2012.

The completion of the Leelanau Trail now gives TART a 24.1-mile stretch of trail that extends from Bunker Hill Road in Acme Township to the depot in Suttons Bay.

That trail will be extended by about a mile in 2013, taking it through the village north to Dumas Road.

Construction is expected to start in the spring, Darling said.

The addition will be funded by a DNR Trust Fund grant that the village applied for, she said.

Other municipalities also applied for DNR Trust Fund grants to extend trails.

In Traverse City, plans call for an extension of the Boardman Lake Trail from 10th St. to 14th St..

"The hope is to have it started this year," Darling said.

In Garfield Township, the Buffalo Ridge Trail will be extended from Traverse City West Middle School to the site of the new YMCA.

"Design will start the first of the year and hopefully we'll have some trail on the ground by the end of 2013," Darling said.

Plans are also in the works to add another four miles to the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, extending from the Dune Climb to Empire.

TART Trails is the fund-raising partner in that trail project, working with The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, the National Park Service and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"We're really close to having the next four miles fully funded," Darling said. "Hopefully, the bid will be let in July and construction will start in late summer to early fall."

TART also has an agreement with the DNR to groom the Vasa Pathway for cross country skiing in the winter. Volunteers groom the Leelanau Trail. Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, an organization that operates within the National Lakeshore, plan to groom the Heritage Trail.

"There are lots of exciting things going on," Darling said.

So how many people use the trail system? The last trail users survey was done 10 years ago.

"At that point, it was determined there were 200,000 users a year," Darling said. "I wouldn't even venture a guess, but it's significantly higher than that."

Continued expansion of the system should drive those numbers up, too.

"2012 was banner year and 2013 is looking like it's going to be another one," Darling said. extends from Bunker Hill Road in Acme Township to the depot in Suttons Bay.

That trail will be extended by about a mile in 2013, taking it through the village north to Dumas Road.

Construction is expected to start in the spring, Darling said.

The addition will be funded by a DNR Trust Fund grant that the village applied for, she said.

Other municipalities also applied for DNR Trust Fund grants to extend trails.

In Traverse City, plans call for an extension of the Boardman Lake Trail from 10th St. to 14th St..

"The hope is to have it started this year," Darling said.

In Garfield Township, the Buffalo Ridge Trail will be extended from Traverse City West Middle School to the site of the new YMCA.

"Design will start the first of the year and hopefully we'll have some trail on the ground by the end of 2013," Darling said.

Plans are also in the works to add another four miles to the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, extending from the Dune Climb to Empire.

TART Trails is the fund-raising partner in that trail project, working with The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, the National Park Service and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"We're really close to having the next four miles fully funded," Darling said. "Hopefully, the bid will be let in July and construction will start in late summer to early fall."

TART also has an agreement with the DNR to groom the Vasa Pathway for cross country skiing in the winter. Volunteers groom the Leelanau Trail. Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, an organization that operates within the National Lakeshore, plan to groom the Heritage Trail.

"There are lots of exciting things going on," Darling said.

So how many people use the trail system? The last trail users survey was done 10 years ago.

"At that point, it was determined there were 200,000 users a year," Darling said. "I wouldn't even venture a guess, but it's significantly higher than that."

Continued expansion of the system should drive those numbers up, too.

"2012 was a banner year and 2013 is looking like it's going to be another one," Darling said.

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