Unparalleled Trail Will Be Completed Next Year
“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.”-Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea
White Cloud, MI: The Newaygo County Board of Commissioners appropriated $1.05 million of American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund the completion of Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam Project (Dragon Trail) to meet the increasing demand for recreation and tourism in the region.
Newaygo County, like other municipalities, received American Rescue Plan Act funds from the Federal Government in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Outdoor recreation has increased during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Completing the Dragon Trail will help satisfy that new demand for Newaygo County residents and thousands of visitors that recreate in the region.
Once complete, the Dragon Trail will comprise 11 segments forming a 40+ mile loop around Hardy Pond, traversing through both Mecosta and Newaygo counties. Of the 22 miles already open to the public, 12+ miles are in Newaygo County, and 8+ or more miles of trail are already open in Mecosta County. Trail builders with Spectrum Trail Design LLC are in the process of building 14 more miles of trail. Later this Fall, a 7.6-mile connection between Newaygo State Park and Brower County Park will open to the public. Project officials hope to have all construction completed in 2023.
These newly allocated ARPA funds will pay for the completion of new construction in Newaygo County and two more phases in 2023. Most notable will be a fully ADA-Accessible mile of trail starting at Big Prairie Township’s Operators Park on the East side of Hardy Dam.
“It is important that people of all abilities can experience Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam. This mile of accessible trail will allow wheelchair accessibility, and the trailhead will include handicapped parking so everyone can explore the Dragon Trail,” said Nick Smith, Newaygo County Parks Director.
With a recent Mecosta County Board of Commissioners allocation earlier in the year, the two Counties have ensured that the remaining construction phases are fully funded. The first half of construction was funded by many generous donors and community partners through fundraising and grants. Most recently, funds were received from the DNR Trust Fund Grant Program and utilized to fund two construction phases. Newaygo and Mecosta County have been working together on this project along with the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance for over ten years.
Restaurants, campgrounds, and other businesses are already experiencing the economic benefit of the Dragon Trail. Surrounding locations are reporting new visitors to the area due to the trail and increased sales. In addition, property sales are up surrounding the Dragon Trail, and new businesses are opening to meet the demand of these new visitors.
At the start of this project, Michigan State University completed an economic impact study that estimated a $4+ million annual economic impact to the region due to the addition of the Dragon Trail.
“This project is critical to meet our region's increasing recreational and tourism demand. The economic impact we are already seeing from this project made it a priority for Newaygo County to complete the Dragon Trail,” explained County Administrator Chris Wren.
Follow official Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam Facebook Page for updates on construction progresses and new trail sections as they open, or visit www.thedragon.us.
ABOUT MICHIGAN’S DRAGON AT HARDY DAM
Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam is a 40+ mile non-motorized, multi-use trail system between Hardy and Rogers Dams in West Michigan. The Dragon is managed by Newaygo County Parks, Mecosta County Parks Commission, and the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance. Construction for the trail began in 2019. Learn more at www.thedragon.us.