10 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant Projects We’re Excited About
Last week Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that authorizes $45.6 million in Michigan National Resources Trust Fund Grants. This money will cover more than 115 projects, including land acquisition, trail creation and improvement, park development, water access, and more. With a lot of projects on this list, we went through it and decided to highlight the 10 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant projects that we’re most excited about. It’s great to see that some of our favorite places are getting enhancements, and even better to see that new parks and trails will soon be available for everyone.
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund “is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of land for resource protection and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects. It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals, primarily oil and gas, and can only be used for public outdoor recreation.” If you’ve seen a sign like the one above while enjoying a park, there’s a pretty solid chance that money from this fund helped create, maintain, or preserve the park you’re enjoying.
Douglass Houghton Falls ($300,000 for scenic site development) – There’s no question that this is the project we are most excited to see come to fruition! Since Governor Rick Snyder announced the acquisition of this property in 2016 the project has sat in development hell, with Houghton County visitors no closer to being able to safely view this majestic 110 foot tall waterfall. We managed to find a longer way to hike in from below so we could visit a few times, but it would be great to soon see this set up as a scenic site like Wagner Falls, Laughing Whitefish Falls, or Bond Falls.
Piers Gorge Accessible Trail ($300,000 for accessible trail improvements) – The money earmarked for the beautiful Piers Gorge Unit of the Menominee River State Recreation area will “replace two small pedestrian bridges and improve riverside trails along the gorge to provide access to scenic overlooks and provide for emergency access to the falls for rafters. This project is critical to providing safe white-water rafting experiences on the river and public access at the park, while protecting sensitive natural areas.” We love visiting the waterfalls here on the border between Michigan and Wisconsin while watching whitewater rafters navigate the river. Making the trails here better and open to everyone sounds like a great idea!
Idema Explorers Trail, Stearns Bayou Connector ($300,000) “Development of a 2.3-mile trail segment along the Idema Explorers Trail that will provide the final non-motorized trail connection between the existing IET & Grand Haven – completing a 13-mile segment of the IET from the Grand Haven Pier to Riverside Park. This project includes construction of 11,182 feet of a 10’ wide pedestrian-bicycle asphalt pathway as well as 600 feet of 14’-wide pedestrian expansion of the Green Street bridge over Stearns Bayou (off the Grand River) and a 400’ by 14’ boardwalk over Little Robinson Creek. Both the bridge and boardwalk will include bump-outs for wildlife viewing, fishing, and allowing those with physical challenges to enjoy the view or rest without being in the flow of traffic.” The Idema Explorers Trail will eventually cover 36.5 miles from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven, and this project gets it closer to the final vision.
Sturgeon River Park ($2,737,500 for land acquisition) – One of the biggest single items in the land acquisition category is in the Upper Peninsula’s Baraga County, where more than 1,100 acres will be purchased for development as a future park and recreation area. “The property includes 8.5 miles of river frontage and 560 acres of high-quality riverine wetlands. The site provides habitat for a variety of animal species from wolves and moose to box turtles and pickerel frogs. Future plans will feature paddle-craft launches, fishing, bird watching, hiking, snowmobiling, and hunting. Rustic camp sites and trail development will be designed to minimize impacts to sensitive natural habitats on the property.”
Lake Huron Coastal Preserve, Alabaster ($1.7 million for land acquisition) – Anyone who has spect time on the Lake huron shoreline visiting the beautiful state parks and nature preserves will tell you it is a magical place, and this acquisition guarantees that another stretch of Lake Huron shoreline will stay preserved and free of development. “The acquisition will provide public access to over 4,000 feet of Lake Huron frontage and create connections between the Alabaster Bike Path portion of the Iron Belle Trail and the natural area. This will be the first acquisition of its kind in Alabaster Township and along this Lake Huron shoreline. The property contains 60 acres of forested coastal dune and swale, 6 acres of wet meadow, over 4,000 feet of cobble shoreline and northern hardwood forest.”
Pier Cove Beach projects ($128,700 and $266,00) – Two projects in Allegan County will help enhance the visitor experience at the always popular Pier Cove beach. First, an acquisition project “will triple the existing beach access at Pier Cove Park, helping to address current issues of overcrowding and trespass. The acquisition area contains the outlet of Pier Cove Creek which has long been recognized for its recreation value to all ages, but especially children who enjoy playing in the continuously flowing creek to Lake Michigan. The property offers spectacular view of Lake Michigan from the adjacent road which will be managed and preserved.” A second project will “enhance the overall accessibility and scenic value of Pier Cove Park while honoring the rich history, quiet restfulness, and natural beauty of this unique lakeshore area. A new walkway and gathering space will add barrier-free accessibility to parking, reconstruction of steps down to the beach, and a new Lake Michigan overlook.”
Straits State Park improvements ($300,000) – “Development project for the Learning Commons Building as part of the Straits of Mackinac Heritage Center located in the west unit of Straits State Park near St. Ignace, which includes the Father Marquette National Memorial. The Learning Commons is part of a long-range collaborative project between the DNR’s Michigan Historical Center and regional partners such as Moran Township, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Mackinac Straits Health System, and Lake Superior State University. The Learning Commons Building will provide learning opportunities around the Anishinaabe and French heritage of the region. Native American perspectives on the natural world will be explored, as well as current and future uses of Michigan’s natural resources.” One of our favorite parks for camping and where we first discovered our love for everything the Upper Peninsula has to offer is Straits State Park. Since a fire in 2000 destroyed the museum at the Father Marquette National Memorial, the site has been badly in need of something to enhance the visitor experience. This sounds like a great project that will definitely get more visitors interested in checking out local history.
River Edges Trail Grand Rapids ($300,000 each for three projects) – The White Pine Trail north of Grand Rapids is one of the area’s premier trails, and these three projects will connect it with downtown Grand Rapids. The Grand River has long been a focal point for local outdoor recreation, and these projects will help enhance that experience (especially if Grand Rapids Whitewater is successful in restoring the rapids). First off, two segments will run from Leonard St. to Ann St.: “Development of 690′ of a non-motorized trail with river frontage along the east bank of the Grand River. The segment includes the Leonard Street underpass, a universally accessible 12′ wide shared use trail with a 2′ buffer, river access, LED lighting, native planting slope restoration, benches with accessible companion seating, and signage. Development of 3,215′ of a non-motorized trail with river frontage along the east bank of the Grand River. This segment will extend from Leonard Street to the railroad bridge and include a spur connecting to Monroe Avenue. A universally accessible 12′ wide shared-use trail with a 2′ buffer, river access, LED lighting, native planting slope restoration, benches with accessible companion seating, and signage.” A third project will cover “development of 559′ of a non-motorized trail with river frontage along the east bank of the Grand River. The segment includes the Ann Street underpass, a universally accessible 12′ wide shared-use trail with 2′ buffer, river access, LED lighting, native planting slope restoration, benches with accessible companion seating, and signage.”
Lake County ORV Park projects ($183,300/$300,000) for development) – This is two projects that complement each other nicely in a part of the state where trail riding is incredibly popular. First off is “development of the Lake County ORV Skills Development Center for novice users. This facility will complement the improvements to Webber Township’s Community Park (Grant #TF21-0127) just south of the property. The project will include a paved parking lot, two safety training areas, a tot-lot and learner trail, a beginner trail, and a skill development trail.” The accompanying project in Webber Township will “s include paved parking, access pathways and renovation of the existing shelter to provide the site’s first modern restroom.”
Midland Trail Projects ($300,000 each for three projects) – We loved visiting Midland last year and we were impressed by the vast network of trails in the area. Three projects here will only make things better. First, a renovation of 3.5 miles of the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail: “improvements will provide new Universal Access improvements such as benches, informative signs and trail maps with key destinations, distances of travel noted, trash receptacles and bollards.” Second, improvements to the Tittabawassee River Pedestrain Corridor: “Development at upper Emerson Park to improve the Tittabawassee riverfront at the confluence of Sturgeon Creek and create a welcoming pedestrian green space. Two accessible pathways will connect the project site to the adjacent Pere Marquette Rail-Trail from which trail users can enjoy universally accessible views of the river with accessible picnic locations and riverfront wildfowl viewing. Overlook platforms on either side of the confluence will provide fishing opportunities at the mouth of the creek with new accessible railings along the existing seawall. Improvements will continue onto the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail where an existing pedestrian bridge between the pathways leading to the riverfront will receive new decking and railing that will open up universal viewing of Sturgeon Creek and the Tittabawassee River.” Finally, an extension of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail: “Development of a 1-mile extension of the Midland Township Walking Path starting near Overlook Park to Stewart Road. This trail is part of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail (GLBRT) network connecting Midland, Bay City, and Saginaw. It is also an official connector route of the Iron Belle Trail. The trail will provide barrier-free access with at least a 6’-wide path.” Midland will continue to be a destination for trail users from all over the state thanks to these exciting projects!
These are just a few of the projects we chose to highlight and there are many more worthy of attention. You can view the whole list of land acquisitions and development projects on the Michigan DNR website and see what’s coming close to where you live. We can’t wait to see the end results of this great program as parks and trails are created and made more accessible for everyone in Michigan!