BIG PRAIRIE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The plan to create a 47-mile trail for hiking and biking trail through Mecosta and Newaygo counties is taking shape as more of the trail opens and funding falls into place.

It’s called Michigan’s Dragon because, if you’re creative enough, its outline from above resembles one. Much of it runs near the Hardy Dam Pond, where — thanks to help from the power company that profits from the dam and the federal government, which controls the land — some virgin territory will be made accessible to hikers and bikers.

For the last 10 years, naturalists in Mecosta and Newaygo counties have been looking for a way to make the area more accessible.

“We’re just really celebrating that achievement of getting trail sections open. It’s been about 10 years to get to this point,” said Nick Smith, the director of the Newaygo County Parks and Recreation Department.

On Monday, people who have been advocating for the trail, including the parks departments of the two counties, celebrated a $200,000 grant from Consumers Energy that will fund some of the construction of bridges and other amenities.

“This trail means a lot for the area; not only for our visitors, but our residents,” Smith said.

About 6 miles of the trail are currently open. Eventually, if everything goes as planned, it will stretch 47 miles.

There are various entry points, including at Brower Park in Mecosta County and Sandy Beach Park in Newaygo County.

“Hopefully in the next two to three years, we’ll complete the whole loop, but it’s a lot of trail to still build,” Smith said.

The land is owned by Consumers and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had to give approval because of the hydroelectric dam at the trail’s center.

“It’s actually being designed to be one of the better mountain biking trails in the area. We want it to be a destination for folks,” Smith said.

The total cost of the project is estimated at about $3.5 million, with about $2 million left to be raised. The money is coming from grants and donations from businesses like New Holland Brewing, foundations and individuals.

“It means really big things for our region in the economic stability that comes along with that and the different businesses and things that it’s going draw to the area,” Jeff Abel, superintendent for Mecosta County Parks and Recreation, said. “I’m sure the hotels and campgrounds like ourselves are ready to get the whole thing done and up and running and being able to profit from that.”

Learn more about the trail at TheDragon.us.