Time To Give Back To Trails

Editor’s Note: This blog entry by Jim DuFresne was suppose to appear  just before Christmas but technical difficulties prevented us from posting it until now.

By Jim DuFresne

Jim DuFresne

Jim DuFresne

This is the time of the year when we often pause to reflect, remember and give thanks. Despite these tough economic times, at MichiganTrailMaps.com we have much to be thankful for.

Conceived in 2009 and launched in 2010, this small publishing company and web site had its best year so far in 2011. We ushered in our first book, the fourth edition of Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails & Water Routes, signed up our first two sponsors, laid the foundation for an e-commerce shop and our first commercial map, both which should occur in 2012.

And along the way we managed to research, map and upload almost 140 trails on the web site. That’s a lot of afternoons spent in the woods and for that we are eternally grateful.

But the more we thought about it the more we realized it’s the trails themselves and the organizations and agencies that plan, build and maintain them that we are particularly thankful for. Groups like the North Country Trail Association, the Michigan Mountain Biking Association, the Top of Michigan Trails Council, all the nature conservancies around the state that work tirelessly to preserve a small tract of woods and build a trail across it so we can enjoy the natural setting.

As a way of showing our appreciation, we decided to start an annual tradition of selecting one group at the end of the year and giving something back to them. This week we sent a check to TART Trails.

It wasn’t large – we’re young, we don’t have much to spare – but we sent what we could because this group has done so much for trail users in the Grand Traverse Area.

The TART Trail in Traverse City.

Formed in 1998 when four local groups merged to create a stronger voice for recreation trails in northwest Michigan, TART has almost single handily turned Traverse City into Trail Town.

They currently oversee six multi-use trails in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties that total 55 miles of trails and are used by 200,000 people annually. The heart of their system is Tart Trail, a 10.5-mile paved path that begins in Acme, heads west through the heart of downtown Traverse City and ends at the M-22/M-72 intersection. The year the popular trail celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Where Tart Trail ends their Leelanau Trail begins and heads north 15.5 miles to Sutton’s Bay.  On the edge of Traverse City in the Pere Marquette State Forest is the Vasa Pathway, a series of loops ranging from 3 kilometers to 25 kilometers that TART grooms for cross country skiers in the winter and maintains for runners, hikers and mountain bikers the rest of the year.

Among the projects the organization is focused on is the complete paving of the Leelanau Trail, the construction of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail that someday will  extend from 27 miles from the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to south of Empire and linking the village of Elk Rapids to the Tart Trail in Acme.

That’s a lot of trail work. They could use our help.

If you bike, hike, jog or ski in this beautiful corner of Michigan, you can help by sending them a donation. Even if it’s a small one, they’ll gratefully accept it now or any time of the year and will put the money to the best possible use.

Building a trail somewhere.

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