Despite early spring warm-up, area mountain biking trails remain closed to protect trail integrityDTE Energy Foundation Trail in Chelsea closed for spring thaw, local trail association eager to build fifth loop

This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

If you're looking to do some cycling on local mountain bike trails like the DTE Energy Foundation Trail in Chelsea, you're going to have to wait just a little longer. Although temperatures have been fairly pleasant over the last few weeks, the ground's frost layer is still thawing out. 

Jason Aric Jones, director of the trail and advocacy director for the MichiganDTE Trail signage Mountain Biking Association (MMBA), says Southeast Michigan's sandy loam soil makes spring a problematic time for natural surface trails like the one he oversees. 

"The ground is frozen underneath the topsoil," he says. "So when it rains, the water can't be absorbed and pools on top, and you get that slimy mud layer. A lot of erosion can occur then both from feet, because of postholing, and pizza cuts from bike tires."

For this reason, the DTE trail is temporarily closed until the ground there is completely thawed.  It isn't the only Southeast Michigan mountain bike trail that's closed right now either. Shelden Trails at Stony Creek Metropark is also closed for the spring thaw. And while Maybury State Park's trails in Northville are technically open, park authorities are asking visitors to stay off them for the time being until they dry out. Jones urges those who want to hike or bike right now to instead use paved linear trails like the Border-to-Border Trail, the Huron Waterloo Pathways Trail, or gravel roads, which tend to dry out sooner. 

In a few weeks' time, though, visitors will again have a chance to enjoy the DTE trail. The 22-mile natural-surface single-track trail system is overseen by the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association (PotoMBA), a chapter of the MMBA based in Washtenaw and Livingston counties. 

The idea of a top-notch nonlinear regional trail aimed at mountain biking Obstacle at DTE Trailenthusiasts had been a dream of the group for many years. But it never got any serious traction until 2015, when PotoMBA and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) signed an operating agreement to build the DTE trail. 

The following year, DTE Energy Foundation took the project to the next level when it awarded a $250,000 grant to fund development of the trail, which had formerly been known as the Waterloo Trail. 

The DTE trail currently features four loops of varying terrain and difficulty. Green Lake Loop is the most laid-back of these, consisting of around four miles of relatively flat terrain. Big Kame Loop is a 4.5-mile segment named after its most prominent feature, a large mound of earth formed by glacial melting called a kame.

Winn Loop's name is a reference to the Winnewana Impoundment, a scenic 500-acre lake that it borders in several places. Roughly eight miles in length, it's the longest loop on the trail and crosses through a steep ridgeline that drops down over the lake.

The last section is known as Sugar Loop. A rigorous four-mile loop, it's home to an ample assortment of rolls, switches, and other elements designed to keep cyclists on their toes. 

One day PotoMBA hopes to add a fifth segment that would be called the Cassidy Loop. That section would be designed around a 70-year-old gravel pit  that could potentially be used for a track or bike park. 

The proposed loop's future is currently up in the air, though, due to concerns that it might be located in an area inhabited by the threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake. The issue is currently under review by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

Check out the DTE Energy Foundation Trail website to view maps and find out more about the trail.
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