BY LORAINE ANDERSON
---- — GLEN ARBOR — The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is not the only thing that is growing — so are efforts to raise money to maintain and expand the trail.
What organizers hope will become an annual Sleepy Bear Twilight Bike Ride is scheduled for the evening of Aug. 11, to raise money for maintenance, operating and winter grooming of the new and popular trail.
The estimated yearly cost of maintenance is about $1,000 per mile, trail advocates said.
The first paved segment of the trail stretches four miles from the Dune Climb to Glen Haven. It opened in June 2012 and appears to be getting a lot of non-motorized use.
A survey done by the nonprofit Friends of the Heritage Trail during the third week of August 2012 indicated an average of 378 trail users each week day and 507 on weekend days – or a total 2,900 for the week, said Tom Ulrich, deputy federal park superintendent.
Judy Finn first rode the trail while on vacation last year and returned two weeks ago.
“We had such a lovely time, we wanted to come back,” Judy said. “It was so fun because last year the kids were just learning to ride and this time they were riding ahead.”
She said the family spent a week on vacation in Alden and made a side trip to Glen Arbor for another ride before heading home to Ohio.
“It was such a beautiful day we came just to do the trail,” she said.
Construction of the next paved segment — from the Dune Climb south to Empire — is scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day, Ulrich said.
A permanent donor plaza also will be built at the base of the Dune Climb to recognize donors who give $1,000 or more.
The Sleepy Bear Twilight Bike Ride is sponsored by the Friends group and Cherry Republic. It starts at 8 p.m. at Cherry Republic, 6026 S. Lake Street, near the corner of Lake and State streets. Cherry Republic is a Glen Arbor-based business that sells cherry products and other merchandise through its four retail outposts, website and catalog.
The total nine-mile loop to the Dune Climb and back is expected to take about 90 minutes and riders should be back to Glen Arbor by dusk at 9:30 p.m., said Todd Ciolek, Cherry Republic’s chief operating officer.
“Our goal for this first year is to get 250 people riding and to build from there,” Ciolek said.
Participants can sign up at friendsofsleepingbear.org/donate. The cost is $30 per family or $10 for an individual.
Proceeds will be used for maintenance and grooming only and should not be confused with TART Trails’ ongoing larger Phase II fundraising campaign, which seeks $775,000 in private donations to build two new sections of paved trail, Ciolek said. TART has raised $175,000 of that goal, so far.
The two new Phase II segments and expected completion dates are:
• Five miles from Glen Arbor to Port Oneida by fall 2014;
• Three miles from Port Oneida to County Road 669 (Bohemian Road) by sometime in 2015.
Estimated cost of Phase II is a little over $5 million, said Pam Darling, TART Trails development development director. TART already has secured $4,276,000 in public funding for Phase II.
The overall 27-mile Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is at least a decade-long project of the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route Committee (LSHR). Trail development is a partnership between the LSHR Committee, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, and TART Trails
When completed, the trail will stretch from Manning Road south of Empire to Good Harbor Beach at County Road 651 at the lakeshore’s north end.
Yet another fundraising effort — the Dune Dash, a four-mile walk/run on the trail — is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Aug. 17 at the Dune Climb. It also will finish in the same spot. All proceeds will go to support the trail.
Registration costs are $30 for adults 18 and older, $20 for teens 13 to 17 and $15 for children 12 and younger. Prices go up $5 after after Aug. 15. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also charges an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle if you do not already have a park pass.
For registration and race details, go to: http://www.dunedash.com/