WHITE CLOUD, Mich. (WOOD) — Newaygo County’s Dragon Trail project will get a boost from the American Rescue Plan Act. On Tuesday, the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners approved $1.05 million of ARPA funds to cover the cost of completing the project.
Once complete, the trail system will stretch 47 miles around the Hardy Dam Pond, resembling a winding Chinese dragon.
Construction started in 2019. So far, 22 miles of trail are open to the public. Work is expected to be finished on another 10 miles — including three bridges — by the end of this fall.
In a news release, Newaygo County Parks Director Nick Smith said the newly allocated ARPA funds will cover the final expenses for the last two construction projects to start next year, including an American Disability Act-accessible mile of trail at Operators Park in Big Prairie Township.
“It is important that people of all abilities can experience Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam,” Smith said. “This mile of accessible trail will allow wheelchair accessibility and the trailhead will include handicapped parking so everyone can explore the Dragon Trail.”
To date, trail construction was covered by community donations and grants from the Department of Natural Resources. The project has been in the works for more than a decade. It is a partnership between the Newaygo and Mecosta County Parks Departments and the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance.
A study from Michigan State University estimates the project will bring in more than $4 million annually to the area.
“This project is critical to meet our region’s increasing recreational and tourism demand,” Newaygo County Administrator Chris Wren said in a release. “The economic impact we are already seeing from this project makes it a priority for Newaygo County to complete the Dragon Trail.”