Here at RTC, November is all about Michigan.
This month, we'll be unearthing and celebrating the great
trails, the new trails, the hard-workers and the leaders - all the energy
behind trails, biking and walking across the state.
When it comes to rail-trails, Michigan is in an exclusive
league. The state has been a leader of the trail movement for many years, and
in fact has more miles of rail-trails than any other state.
While Michigan's rural and wilderness areas have always
boasted terrific trails networks, now its metropolitan center is getting in on
the act, too. The shifting landscape of Detroit is proving to be fertile ground
for new ideas about transportation, and encouraging a young and vibrant culture
centered around biking and more human ways of interacting with the city. Don't
believe all the negative news you hear - Detroit is bouncing with energy and
excitement, much of it centered around trails and active transportation.
And here's a few other reasons the Great Lakes State is on a
roll these days...
10 Great Things Happening in Michigan
1. The Cross-State Trail.
It mightn't have a name yet, but Gov.
Rick Snyder's impressive vision of a trail network across Michigan, from
Detroit through the Upper Peninsula to the Wisconsin border, has delighted
trails advocates. Connecting a number of existing trails, many of them
rail-trails, Snyder's plan focuses on developing strategic linkages through
acquiring easements and savvy land purchases. When completed, this remarkable
off-road pathway will not only boost local trail use but also attract visitors
from across the country. The nation is now watching to see how Snyder will
carry out his ambitious plan.
2. Slow Roll.
"It started with just a small group of friends and people we
knew, about 10 of us, who wanted to explore the city by bike," Mike MacKool
told RTC when we visited Detroit last month. Turns out, there were a lot of
Detroiters who wanted to do the same. In just 3 years, grassroots buzz and word
of mouth turned this casual Monday night bike ride, Slow Roll, into a city
phenomenon (right). This year, up to 1,600 riders - all ages, colors, styles and sizes
- came together once a week for the love of Detroit and wind in the hair. We'll
be writing more about the homegrown goodness that is Slow Roll and other city
bike rides later this month: stay tuned. Photo courtesy Detroit Bike City
An online magazine, Modeshift
has been instrumental in shedding light on the transportation and environmental
challenges for southeast Michigan. A compelling blend of news and advocacy,
Modeshift is keeping a close eye on the big state agencies and its elected
officials and doing what good news outlets are supposed to do - keeping their
feet to the fire. Modeshift also recently launched an ambitious project to
build a digital
mapping platform for residents of southeast Michigan to mark detailed bike
routes and trails, and bike-friendly businesses and transit providers.
4. Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.
Okay, it's not possible to explain all the great things Nancy Krupiarz and MTGA is doing in
Michigan - if there's a cool trail project or initiative happening in the
state, chances are their fingerprints are on it somewhere. Nancy's leadership
and advocacy for trails in Michigan is one of the biggest reason why this state
has more rail-trail mileage than any other. This month we'll be examining a few
of their latest projects, including the Great Lake to Lake Trail, a 250-mile
trail corridor from South Haven to Port Huron. Their new website is awesome,
5. Traverse City's Recycle-A-Bicycle.
Seven years ago Don Cunkle began repairing old bikes in his
garage for local folks unable to afford their own wheels. For the first couple
of years Cherry Capital
Cycling Club provided financial support for Cunkle's booming service (left), and
now the Traverse Area Recreation and
Transportation Trails (TART) has gotten behind Recycle-A-Bicycle,
with the awesome mission of providing bikes for the area's homeless and
economically disadvantaged men and women. Each customer also receives a lock,
lights, and a lifetime of free repairs on the bike when needed. The program is
having a massive impact on the ability of these locals to access jobs and
services - the gift of two wheels is truly a transformative intervention. Photo courtesy Recycle-A-Bicycle
6. The Detroit Greenways Coalition
Led by champion Detroiter Todd Scott, the Detroit Greenways Coalition is pulling together the city, the state, local foundations, businesses and grassroots advocates behind a vision to make the Motor City better for wheels and feet. This is no idle chatter - in just a few years the DGA has overseen a remarkable expansion in bike lane and trail mileage in the city. There is so much good news coming out of Detroit - just a few of the highlights include the continued development of pathways along the Detroit Riverfront, the expansion of the Dequindre Cut and the creation of Complete Streets policy. (And Todd's twitter feed: @detroitgreenway).
7. Detroit's East Side Riders.
When Mike Neeley learned he had diabetes about five years
ago he decided he wanted to do something to lose weight and improve his health.
Not content with a regular old bike ride, he and his brother Dywayne formed a
two-wheeled crew big on personality, lights and color. Today, the East Side
Riders, famous for their super-revamped bikes fitted with everything from
bright lights, stickers and horns to TVs, radios and, yeah, a barbecue, is
credited with popularizing bicycling in the city. (See also: GMOB, Inkster
Pedal Pushers, Southwest, Downriver). Words don't do it justice. Check out
photos of the East Side Riders in this
Huffington Post article...
8. The expansion of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.
A beautiful rail-trail with an excellent group of local supporters and planners behind it, the KRVT has spurred an increase in biking and walking in Kalamazoo County. The completion of a 2.7-mile leg from Mayors' Riverfront Park east to Comstock Township last year, funded by a Transportation Alternatives (TA) grant brings the trail's total distance to 17 miles, nearly halfway to the final goal of 35 miles. Up next: extending the trail from Comstock further east to Galesburg. A big reason for the trail's success: the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail partnership, which has brought all the state and local players to the table to work together on fundraising and planning.
9. The Fred Meijer trails network.
Having made his fortune in the grocery business, in the
early 1990s Fred Meijer funded the purchase of the first rail-trail
right-of-way in Michigan, inspired by his passionate belief that the people of
Michigan should explore the beautiful outdoor areas of their state. That
purchase became the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. In turn, the Heartland Trail
became centerpiece of the Fred
Meijer trails network, which, supported by the excellent Friends of Fred
Meijer Heartland Trail and the Meijer Foundation, continues to grow. The latest
segment, from Ionia to Saranac, through the Ionia State Recreation Area, has
just been completed.
10. The progress of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
As much an exploration of Michigan's past as a place of
transportation and recreation, the Iron
Ore Heritage Trail is already regarded as one of the state's iconic
rail-trails. There's a lot of support for this ambitious trail project in the
Upper Peninsula - Gov. Snyder himself was on hand to cut the ribbon of the
latest 12 mile segment, from Negaunee to Marquette, this summer. That makes 30
miles completed, and 18 more to go.
"Our best days are not behind us, they're ahead of us," Gov. Snyder
said at the ribbon-cutting. It's a sentiment that we think applies to
communities all over Michigan.
Do you know of a trail, project, local organization or
citizen that deserves recognition in our celebration of Michigan this month?
Don't keep it under your hat! Let me know at email@example.com., or share
through our facebook, twitter or instagram feeds - #RTCMichigan.