Nearly connected: Trail of Two Cities

In some ways, progress on the eight-mile Trail of Two Cities connecting Gladwin and Beaverton exceeded expectations this season, with nearly twice as much widening work completed.

But one section, which will go through wetlands, got mired in the permitting process— a delay that is expected to be overcome this year.

What is the Trail of Two Cities: The non-motorized paved all-seasons trail is used for walking, running, rollerblading and biking, and in the winter for snowshoeing, cross country skiing and fat-tire biking. The north portion of the trail is generally plowed by city crews all winter; the south part, from the city park to River Road, is generally not cleared and can be suitable for snowshoeing, fat-tire bicycling or cross-country skiing. The trail meets accessibility standards. An expansion/upgrade that included widening, paving and extending the trail was largely funded by a $150,000 Recreation Passport grant from the state of Michigan.
A busy season: This fall saw completion of paving down both River and Croll roads that ran ahead of schedule. Mike Ridley, chairman of the Gladwin County Trails Recreation Authority (GCTRA), says that’s about twice as far as originally anticipated. “As it worked out, we were actually able to take that widening of River Road and Croll Road all the way to the Beaverton city limits,” Ridley says, thanks to coordination with the Gladwin County Road Commission.

With heavy equipment on site for a roadwork project, “it made the most sense to do it now,” Ridley says. The Herbert and Grace Dow Foundation provided partial funding for the project and Gladwin County appropriated ARPA funds as well.

Also completed, a canoe and kayak launch on the Cedar River at the River Road trailhead, a project of the Gladwin Conservation District and the city of Gladwin.

New benches there were installed by the Gladwin Conservation District and the Gladwin County Kiwanis Club.

What’s next: Next up, Ridley says, is to reapply for permitting to complete 4,000 feet of trail south of the River Road trailhead, where wetlands required some tweaking to the original plans. “We ended up bringing a wetlands consultant on board” to assure the trail extension would be in compliance, he says. Once permits are in place, work on the extension can begin, likely in the spring of 2024. Also, still to come are final signs and crosswalk markings along the trail and roads. 

The backstory: The Gladwin County Trails Recreation Authority (GCTRA) was established in 2016 to create a recreational path to promote healthy living. The popular trail is open year-round, and the current upgrade project launched last spring included construction of approximately 4,000 feet of paved trail on property owned by the city of Gladwin, south of the existing River Road Trailhead (Gladwin Cedar River trailhead); that is the part still awaiting completion. Upgrading the Trail of Two Cities was one of 14 projects to win grants to help boost recreation opportunities throughout Michigan.

Funding for the state grant: Funding for the passport grant program is generated by sales of Michigan’s Recreation Passport, the sticker that is required for vehicle entry into Michigan’s 103 state parks, 140 state forest campgrounds, hundreds of miles of state trails, historic sites, hundreds of boating access sites and other outdoor spaces.  

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. Her work appears regularly in Rural Innovation Exchange and other Issue Media Group publications.
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