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Michigan plans to make trail system easier to use and better connected to municipal and federal trails

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A view from a trail in the Craig Lake State Park.

A lot more people are looking to the great outdoors since the pandemic struck, and many of them are hitting Michigan’s trails.

“Everything just became very, very popular,” said Nikki Van Bloem, a trail specialist for the Department of Natural Resources.

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Horseback riding on a trail in the Pigeon River Country State Forest.

“We’re seeing an increase in all trail uses, generally. You know, mountain biking has gotten huge. Our ORV (off-road vehicle) permit sales have greatly increased, especially through COVID.”

From 2016 to 2020, ORV license sales went up by 30% and ORV trail permit purchases increased 37%.

Hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horseback riding are all strong. People are also putting their kayaks and paddleboards in rivers and lakes, part of Michigan’s water trails.

The only trail use that’s not growing regularly is snowmobiling because of a lack of enough snow some years. Still, about 130,000 snowmobile permits are purchased each year.

A DNR 10-year plan looks at how to make the state's trails easier to use. The goal is to make finding information about trails easy and make people knowledgeable about trail etiquette and how to keep safe.

The plan also emphasizes connecting to a wider network of trails.

“So we’re looking at connections in a lot of ways. And that can be between state trails and state trails, or state and local trails, or trails in the federal forest, you know, any of those kinds of things,” Van Bloem explained.

Already there are more than 13,000 miles of state trails, making Michigan one of the larger trails states.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report and previously hosted Stateside on Fridays. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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