LANSING — The Department of Natural Resources today announced the new statewide hiking and bicycling trail — stretching from Belle Isle Park in Detroit to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula — will officially be called Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail.
“This name effectively captures the beauty and strength of our state’s exceptional natural and cultural resources,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “Along the route from Belle Isle to Ironwood, Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail will ultimately connect communities, provide a variety of recreation opportunities, and showcase our great state to residents and visitors alike.”
Creagh said it’s important to note that while Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail is a work in progress, significant portions of the trail already exist throughout both peninsulas and are open right now for public enjoyment and exploration.
“The hard work and thoughtful vision that have for years gone into Michigan’s existing trail system and future connectors help to lay the groundwork for completion of this important cross-state trail,” Creagh said.
The DNR in September hosted a contest inviting residents and visitors to submit their best ideas to help name the trail. More than 8,800 submissions were received and then evaluated by a team representing partner organizations — the Michigan Trails Advisory Council, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan Recreation and Park Association and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance — involved in the trail’s establishment.
DNR Director Creagh chose the final name based on recommendations from that committee.
First proposed as a “showcase trail” by Gov. Rick Snyder in November 2012, Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail will stretch across Michigan and link numerous existing trails to provide both a 1,259-mile hiking route and a 774-mile bicycling route. One end of the trail lies in Michigan’s newest state park, Belle Isle Park (Wayne County); the other is more than 900 miles away in Ironwood (Gogebic County).
The Parks and Recreation Division of the DNR, as well as other partners, currently is seeking private and public funding to secure and develop trail corridors for Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail. Temporary connectors already are in place along much of the trail and will be made permanent as resources become available. For more information about the development of the trail, please contact DNR state trails coordinator Paul Yauk at 517-284-6141.
Additional segments of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail will open throughout 2015, with ceremonial events in communities along the trail to locally mark the occasions. Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail follows the existing North Country National Scenic Trail for most of its length in Michigan (1,085 of 1,259 miles). North Country Trail extends to the New York/Vermont border to the east and central North Dakota to the west. Spanning 4,600 miles, it is the longest National Scenic Trail in the nation.