Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail Receives More than $10.5M in Private Funding

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday announced $10.5 million in private donations have recently been pledged to help build the Iron Belle Trail. The money will help complete a major development for Michigan’s 2,000-mile hiking and bicycling trail that traverses the state, starting on Belle Isle and ending in Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.

“Our natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan are second to none, and an important and defining part of who we are as a state,” says Snyder. “These generous contributions toward completion of the Iron Belle Trail help solidify Michigan’s reputation as the Trails State. I sincerely thank all of the sponsors for their vision and support of the Iron Belle Trail.”

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Foundation in Detroit has committed more than $5.5 million to date, including a recent $3.3 million grant for trail development in Washtenaw County and more than $2.3 million to support trail design and planning in Detroit. David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation joined Snyder at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor for the announcement.

In turn, Ann Arbor-area entrepreneur Michael Levine previously pledged $5 million. The funding will be used for engineering, development, signage, and other needs on the trail, and to leverage other donations in the ongoing campaign.

“The Iron Belle Trail is a tremendous opportunity to connect the most important assets of our state and region together – our people,” says Egner. “The investments we’ve made to date in southeast Michigan are helping to fill some gaps and link existing and planned greenways, so our kids, families, and visitors can enjoy active and healthy lifestyles, while also connecting to the tremendous natural resources and amenities our state has to offer.”

When completed, the trail, which will be the longest state-designated trail in the nation, will be 2,019 miles of combined trails along two separate routes, one dedicated to hiking and the other to bicycling. It is designed to take visitors through forests and to rivers while providing connections between big cities and smaller communities. The trail builds on the state’s network of more than 12,500 miles of outdoor recreation trails.

Since the vision for the trail was announced in 2012, $68 million, which includes more than $40 million in federal grants, $25 million in state grants, and more than $3 million in local funds, have gone toward building connections along the trail. Significant funding has been provided by the Transportation Alternatives Program, administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) trails staff estimate the trail is 68 percent completed. Keith Creagh, director of the DNR, said nearly 50 miles of new trail development and connectors are either in the engineering or construction phases. A total of 238 trail miles are targeted for completion within the next few years.

To learn more about the trail and donation opportunities, click here.

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