You can now ride your bike from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron on a fully-improved trail network. The trail system starts in Charlevoix, heads to Mackinac City and then goes down to Alpena. It spans about 140 miles.
The grand opening for the North Western State Trail is in Pellston this Friday. NWST was the final segment to be fully-improved this year. It's a 32-mile trail made of crushed and compacted limestone and goes from Alanson to Mackinaw City. "Anybody can go on the trail as long as it’s a non-motorized use," says Jeff Winegard, the executive director of the Top of Michigan Trails Council. "That would include equestrians, bikers [and] joggers."
During the winter, snowmobilers can also use the trails.
This network of trails has been almost thirty years in the making and was built on old railroad tracks. Top of Michigan Trails Council has helped coordinate the improvement of trails with help from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Transportation and local governments.
Winegard himself says he enjoys running on the trails partially because they're flat and also because they're safe and less stressful than sharing a road with traffic.
"You can get on the trail, and your mind can wander, and you can take in nature, and it’s really comforting to be able to do that," says Winegard.
Winegard says a study from Michigan State University found the trail is attracting visitors and helping the local economy.
The study said people were spending an additional $750,000 in and around Petoskey. Winegard only expects that number to grow as people come from in and out of the state to enjoy this network of trails.
Winegard says there are other trail projects in the works including one to connect Charlevoix to Traverse City.