Counties join to support bike trail development
MANISTIQUE – A potential bike trail through the southern portion of the Upper Peninsula is steadily gaining support. The proposal, originating in Dickinson County, is in response to Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to create a similar trail through the northern half of the peninsula.
According to Barbara Kramer, the Dickinson County commissioner who came up with the plan, the governor had proposed a trail from Belle Isle to Ironwood, extending north from the Mackinac Bridge and following the Lake Superior shoreline. While the proposal is still in the planning phase, Kramer said she felt compelled to offer the southern region as a viable alternative. She presented her plan during a recent meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners.
“We feel there are a lot of benefits to having the trail come south, especially since we need the revenue – we could use the economic development,” she said. “The northern counties are much more ahead of us.”
During the meeting, Kramer presented documents outlining the needs of the southern region, as well as the potential economic impact such a trail could have. She noted that she has been traveling to counties on her own time to promote the trail and gather resolutions of support to present to the governor’s office.
According to Kramer, other states have generated substantial income from bike trails. In fact, she said trails contribute $17 billion to the economies of the central region of the U.S. She noted that 30 percent of people who are avid bikers earn over $125,000 and that 87 percent of these people are college graduates – facts dispelling myths that bikers do not spend money.
Kramer pointed out that a trail along the southern U.P. is a common sense move.
“We think the southern route is the obvious choice, because you can hook up to Wisconsin, also,” she said. “So you’re bringing those extra people up.”
She also noted that bikers would have a better lakeshore riding experience.
“They’re going to have a really, really nice ride,” she added.
In order to convince the governor of the viability of a southern trail, Kramer said each county should come up with a list of their assets – such as parks and campgrounds bikers could utilize.
“This is a big deal and it means a lot of money for our area,” she added.
An eventual U.P. bike loop should be the ultimate goal of each county, Kramer explained.
“That’s kind of a pipe dream, but, technically, it’s doable,” she said. “It’s just that nobody’s done it yet.”
The southern trail would not be limited to bikes, Kramer said. Cross-country skiers and, possibly, snowmobilers could use the proposed packed-granite trail.
“There’s a lot of different things that can be done, and all we have to do is dare to dream and insist that we get a little bit of attention down here,” she said.
More stability in the weather in the southern region – meaning a longer riding season – is also something the governor should consider, Kramer added.
“At least we can ask – if we don’t get it, then maybe we’ll just work on our own,” she said. “If they want this, they are probably going to pay for this.”
The commissioner voted unanimously to approve the resolution of support. As of Friday, the counties and entities supporting the trail proposal include: Dickinson County, Iron County, Schoolcraft County, Menominee County, Gogebic County, city of Iron Mountain, Iron Mountain Downtown Development Authority, city of Kingsford, city of Norway, city of Manistique, the charter township of Breitung, and the Dickinson County Townships’ Association.