ALPENA - An Alpena trailhead for the North East State Trail is one step closer to reality.
The Michigan Senate approved a bill Wednesday allocating a $245,000 Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for the $350,000 project. Site plans show it'll include a pavilion, restrooms, paved parking for vehicles and those pulling snowmobile trailers on a three-acre lot on Woodward Avenue. It'll sit at the southern terminus of the 71-mile Alpena-to-Cheboygan path that follows a former railroad grade.
Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, was among 33 senators who voted to pass the bill, now under consideration in the state House of Representatives. He said he believes it'll be money well spent.
"It's a good investment, Michigan trails are an important asset and we want to encourage as much visibility for our recreation opportunities in northern Michigan," he said.
Alpena's is one of 76 projects funded through NRTF grants this year, with $27.6 million awarded, according to the bill. Grants range from $18,700 for reconstruction at a Menominee County-owned boat launch to $3,431,300 to buy a former railroad grade for the Inner Circle Greenway in Detroit. Local governments can apply for the grants, which are paid with interest and investment returns on money from oil and gas leases on state land.
It's also among several grants this year that will fund trail-related projects. Moolenaar said these trails allow people to access the state's abundant natural resources, and Gov. Rick Snyder has voiced support for a statewide network of trails.
On Thursday, Moolenaar introduced bills to create designations for Pure Michigan Trails, Water Trails and Trail Towns. The bills will create criteria for the heightened standards a trail or community would have to meet to merit the designation. The Trails Advisory Committee is working on criteria, and factors like accessibility, maintenance and local support and hospitality could be considered.
"It highlights the opportunity to participate, whether it's motorized or non-motorized trails," he said. "We're even including water trails, our rivers are in the designation as well. Many of our communities are supportive of their rivers.
The concept would be similar to Heritage Route US-23, where information about opportunities along the route is available on one website, Moolenaar said. Information on Pure Michigan Trails and Trail Towns would be accessible in a similar fashion.
"We aren't so much starting from scratch on this, we're building on a very positive network that already exists," he said. "Enhancing that is our goal."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews.