BEULAH — The Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail group is hedging its bets and applying for two grants to reconstruct a 1.5-mile section of the trail.

The Friends are asking for a $140,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and a $150,000 grant from the Recreation Passport Program for the $200,500 project.

John Rothhaar, trail care coordinator, said if one grant is approved, the application for the other will be withdrawn.

The 22-mile-long Betsie Valley Trail runs from Frankfort to Thompsonville. The Friends are hoping to use grant money to reconstruct the unpaved section of the trail that runs from Beulah to County Farm Road.

"It's soft," Rothhaar said. "It's the area that most users complain about and it's been a problem area for quite a while."

Much of the Betsie Valley Trail is unpaved and the repaired section will remain so under an agreement with the Crystal Lake Property Rights Association that went into place when the trail was built.

Aggregate is a compromise that is meant to slow down bikers on the public trail that cuts through private property near Crystal Lake. Work on the 10-foot-wide trail will include putting down a base layer, regrading the trail and adding culverts to manage water runoff before adding a top layer made of fine ground stone, said Jed Maker, president of the Friends group.

"It's a really big project," Maker said. "It's very important because the way the trail is now it's really not rideable."

Some bike riders, in fact, leave the trail in that area and ride on the nearby highway — which is not safe, Maker said.

The trail is built on an abandoned rail corridor purchased by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in 1998. It is still owned by the DNR and is operated and maintained by Benzie County.

Rothhaar was at the Benzie County Board of Commissioners meeting this week for a required public hearing on the Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. The county is the sponsor for both grants and approved both applications.

No member of the public offered comment during the hearing.

The deadline for both grants is April 1, though recipients of the Passport grant will be announced first, Rothhaar said. The Friends will provide matching funds of $60,500 for the trust fund grant and $50,500 for the Passport grant.

Rothhaar said the Friends applied for the trust fund grant last year and were denied. But there were some big projects downstate last year and the grant was not awarded for any northern Michigan projects, he said.

"It's an either/or situation," Rothhaar said of the two applications. "We're more hopeful this year that one of them will hit."

Reporter