2011 and Earlier / News

Heritage Trail grants, funds keep coming in

The latest federal grant for Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail has supporters optimistic the trail could be in use from Empire to Port Oneida by summer 2014.

Last month U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow announced the trail received $1.3 million to fund construction of the trail from Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive south to Empire. The grant come from U.S. Department of Transportation’s Paul S. Sarbanes Transit-in-Parks program.

The Heritage Trail was first suggested by the Leelanau County Scenic Heritage Route Commission in 2006. The commission soon had support of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The trail is now overseen by the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail Committee.

Lakeshore Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich and Patty O’Donnell, a regional planner with council of governments, have worked on the trail project almost from its beginning. Both said funding has come quicker than expected.

“The total trail, from Empire north to the beach at the end of County Road 651, will cost $10 million,” Ulrich said. “So far between the grants and the private funds raised for the local match, we’ve receive $6.3 million, so we are well on our way.”

“If we continue to receive the funding support we’ve seen so far, we could be riding on the trail from Empire to Port Oneida by summer 2014.”

The trail committee is working with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to design and bid the project. Ulrich said MDOT officials won’t have the Pierce Stocking-Empire section of the trail in its “que” for work until 2013.

The first phase of the trail between the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb on M-109 to Glen Arbor will be built this spring and ready for riders by early summer, according to Ulrich and O’Donnell.

Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails, Inc., (TART) is leading the private fundraising effort to raise the local match. TART needs to raise $850,000 for the match. In a press release from TART Director Julie Clark said more donations are needed.

O’Donnell said TART has applied to the US DOT’s Federal Public Land Discretionary Grant program to fund engineering, design and construction of the trail from Port Oneida to County Road 667.

“We are getting close to our goal in a shorter amount of time than we thought,” O’Donnell said. “With the success we’ve seen in receiving grants, donors are moving up their pledges.”

By Chris Olson
Of The Enterprise staff

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