SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The first trail in the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails system welcomed bicyclists Friday.
Route No. 1 stretches about 275 miles from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron, mostly avoiding roads as it crosses through nine counties.
“The long-term objective is to really have a 100 percent off-road trail for the entire 275 miles,” said Scott Reinert with the South Haven Visitors Bureau.
“We’re about two-thirds of the way there right now and so as we keep working towards that objective.”
Riders gathered in South Haven Friday morning for the unveiling of a buoy brought in from Port Huron that marks the start of the trail. A second buoy marks the end of the trail.
Many people participating in the official inaugural ride are planning to pedal the entire distance.
Reinert says the project will attract tourists to the area and strengthen the local economy.
“We see it as a big destination opportunity for South Haven,” he added.
The plan is to create a total of five Great Lake-to-Lake Trails across Michigan by linking together local trails.
Paul Yauk, the state trail coordinator for the Michigan DNR, says the project has taken years of hard work to become a reality.
“Really it has been going on for 30 years. And in the early days, people, they didn’t believe it. But now it’s coming,” Yauk said. “People want to have trails.”
The project was primarily paid for by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Michigan Department of Transportation and generous private donations. At Friday’s dedication ceremony in South Haven, Mike Levine was honored for his personal donation and work on the project.
According to Yauk, more connections are in the planning stages that will hopefully open up communities along the trail to more visitors.
“We had a call from New Buffalo and northern Indiana,” Yauk said. “They want to connect to our trail. So you’re going to be able to come from northern Indiana up to South Haven.”
The bicyclists taking part in the inaugural ride are expected to arrive in Port Huron before Wednesday afternoon when a ceremony will mark the end of their trip.