Best of times: Trail of Two Cities moves forward

What 's happening: The eight-mile Trail of Two Cities, which connects Gladwin and Beaverton, will be completed soon thanks to the recent award of a $150,000 Recreation Passport grant from the state of Michigan. The non-motorized, paved trail can be used for walking, running, rollerblading and biking, and meets accessibility standards.

The Gladwin County Trails Recreation Authority (GCTRA) was established in 2016 to create a recreational path to promote healthy living. Mike Ridley, chairman of the recreation authority, says this project includes 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 on the map below). 

Surveying and preparation of the construction documents are underway, and the hope is to be able to start work during the 2023 construction season. At the same time, other funding will be used to create a bike lane along the west side of the existing road that runs between Gladwin and Beaverton.  

Ridley says if the bid proposals fall in line with the project estimates, he anticipates completion in the spring of 2024.

Currently, there are 2.5 miles of trail running along the Cedar River in Gladwin.

The Buckhead Trailhead on River Road, about 2.5 miles south of the existing River Road Trailhead between Highwood Road and Howard Road, includes 2,500 feet of paved trail, a canoe/kayak launch, parking, a pavilion, and rustic bathroom.

What’s next: The next portion of the project will be to connect the River Road Trailhead to the Buckeye Trailhead by extending the existing trail on city of Gladwin property south about 4,000 feet. From there, the shoulder on the west side of River Road will be paved to create a bike lane to the Buckeye Trailhead.

The final portion of the project is to create a bike lane along the west side of River Road south from the Buckeye Trailhead to Badger Road. Signs will direct users safely though the neighborhood to the Beaverton Trailhead on Porter Street.

Completion of the Trail of Two Cities was one of 14 projects to win grants to help boost recreation opportunities throughout Michigan.

Connecting the trails is the final piece of the Trail of Two Cities project, says Christopher Shannon, manager of the city of Gladwin, which administers the Recreation Passport grant that funds the work.

Why it matters: Trails are popular, Shannon says, and one annual event alone brings about 2,000 cyclists through the community each summer. Shannon says that number will likely increase with completion of the trail and expansion of the former state park campground, now a park in the city of Gladwin. The campground project, also under construction, was awarded a $300,000 Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. “Currently, we have 62 campgrounds and two cabins," Shannon says. The hope is to build two more cabins and to add between 10 and 15 new full-service campsites with electricity, water and sanitary.

Grant funding: 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.  Approximately 97 percent of state parks funding for operations and maintenance is generated by user fees and royalty revenues. This includes: 

— 51 percent from camping and lodging reservation fees. 
— 26 percent from Recreation Passport sales. 
— 15 percent from state-owned, oil, gas and mineral royalty revenues, which feed the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund. 
— 5 percent from concessions, shelter reservations, and miscellaneous sources.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, source of the campground grant, has been in place since 1976. It funds grants to local governments and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty.

The grant program is quite competitive and the funding available depends on the performance of its investment portfolio, Shannon says. “Being that the stock market has trended downward, we knew that it was going to be more competitive this year than it has been in other years,” he says. “So that worried us a bit. But we won both grants. That's great.”
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