Sections of two popular rail-trails close as crews begin work on more than $15M in upgrades

What’s happening: Two of western Michigan’s longest rail-trail state parks, Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park and KalHaven Trail State Park, are receiving significant upgrades this summer. Partial closures of each have recently been announced as construction crews work to finish the planned improvements; the remaining portions of each trail stay open.
The White Pine Trail improvement project includes paving the 21-mile section from Howard City north to Big Rapids. (Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR)
North-South: The 92-mile Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park stretches from Cadillac in the north to Comstock Park in the south, connecting several counties along Michigan’s western coast. A 21-mile section that reaches from Howard City to Big Rapids has been temporarily closed as work crews pave that length of trail. When that section of trail reopens in what’s expected to be November, the entirety of the 92-mile trail will then be paved. The $9.6 million project also includes the replacement of two culverts.

East-West: Connecting Kalamazoo to South Haven is the KalHaven Trail State Park, a 33.5-mile rail-trail that is also receiving some upgrades. A 14-mile stretch that runs from South Haven to Bloomingdale has recently been closed as a bevy of park enhancements begin in earnest. Three bridges, including the Donald F. Nichols Bridge, colloquially known as the Black River Bridge, will be replaced. Pathways will be resurfaced, parking will be improved, bridge decks will be coated with epoxy to protect from snowmobile damage, and more. It’s expected that the $6 million project will have the trail section reopening sometime in early 2024.

[Related: Read "Popular Kal-Haven Trail gets money for upgrades" on Rural Innovation Exchange.]

How it’s happening: In total, Michigan will spend $250 million in State Park improvement projects, including the creation of a new State Park in Flint, this thanks to the $4.8 billion Building Michigan Together Plan signed by Gov. Whitmer in March 2022, a result of funds received from the federal American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA). The state’s Building Michigan Together Plan website offers up-to-date progress reports on each of the ARPA-funded State Park projects.

[Related: Read "DNR completes first wave of projects in multi-year, $250M state park improvement campaign" on Rural Innovation Exchange.]

Why it’s important: “While we understand the inconvenience this temporary closure may cause, we believe that the long-term benefits will far outweigh any short-term disruptions,” Scott Slavin, northwestern Lower Peninsula trails specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says about the Fred Meijer trail. “The construction project will not only enhance the park's amenities, but also contribute to the user’s experience – cyclists, walkers and runners will notice a smoother surface as they explore the trail.”

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