Paving way on Leelanau Trail a credit to many
Which one you ask? It’s the newly paved 6.5-mile section of the Leelanau Trail, which I call “my” East Coast trail.
The ceremonial opening of the paved section is set for 9 a.m. at the Fourth Street Trailhead in Suttons Bay. A ceremonial ride on the new asphalt is also planned.
While some could say the trail pales in comparison with the sites and sounds of the new West Coast trail in the county — the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s Heritage Trail — its still beauty in the eyes of cycling enthusiasts who have been pounding the new pavement since it was laid in late June.
Some of the signage is yet to be reposted and there’s still some other work to be done, but the trail is open. There’s still fundraising for signage and maintenance and donors of $2,500 or more will be recognized at new plazas at Cherry Bend and Suttons Bay.
I have dubbed the Leelanau Trail the East Coast trail because of its location. It runs along the East Coast side of the county and it’s just about a mile from my home in Bingham Township. It’s been the trail most traveled by my family since our arrival in June 2011. Call it location, location, location.
Some day soon I expect to take in the Heritage Trail, but for now the 15.5 mile non-motorized pathway connecting Traverse City to Suttons Bay is my personal fave.
As I run or bike through the last of Leelanau County’s former railroad corridors, I can see it’s the perfect setting for transportation, recreation and environmental education. The route stretches through rolling hills, lush forests, picturesque orchards, peaceful meadows and an aquatic medley of streams, lakes and ponds.
My wife, Kimberley just got a glimpse of its beauty in the last month. I had been doing the trail for over a year.
I still don’t know all the history, but the trail’s completion is through the hard work and dedication of many local leaders and volunteers. After nearly 20 years, their vision of a paved trail connecting Traverse City to Suttons Bay is now a reality.
I talked with one of those “founding fathers” on the eve of this week’s dedication — Dave Monstrey, an adjoining landowner and president of the Leelanau Trail Association.
He’ll be giving a short speech at the dedication, although Monstrey was quick to point out that the trail’s completion would not have been possible without the support of Frank Noverr. He came up with $50,000 for the down payment and then threw in another $37,500 earlier this year in a matching grant challenge to TART Trails for donations made to the Leelanau Trail paving campaign. To further motivate donors, Casey Cowell offered a $50,000 pledge if the Noverr Challenge was met by the deadline.
Turns out 100 donors contributed over a 10-day period to help reach the goal. The total amount raised, including the Noverr Challenge match and the additional $50,000 pledge, was more than $125,000.
“This trail would not exist, if not for Frank,” Monstrey admitted.
Paving the trail allows people of all ages and abilities to access the trail. Monstrey has already noticed a signifi cant increase in activity. He and his wife, Kathy Heil, who have been supplying water on the trail just north of Bingham Road, say it’s “10-fold.”
Theyusedtoputouta5gallon water jug that lasted a week. Since it opened officially on July 1, it’s 5 gallons a day.
“It’s quite gratifying to see it finished — more than 18 years in the works,” Monstrey said. “It was a hard fought battle.”
Although the paving is complete, funds are still needed for trail maintenance, signage, and way finding. Donations are still being accepted.
You can also contribute 12th annual Tour de Tart Friday, July 27. It’s the annual fundraiser for the trail that goes all 19 miles from Traverse City to the Suttons Bay Municipal Marina.