‘One of a kind’ trail construction underway
Photo by Lil DeLaat
A long held vision for an exciting new recreational destination encompassing some of the most scenic land (and water) that our region of the near north has to offer began its journey toward becoming a reality Friday afternoon.
The official groundbreaking for the Michigan Dragon Trail created a celebratory aura surrounding the gathering at Sandy Beach Park. Guests from the many entities who collaborated to make this possible, supporters and officials who were involved at some level in the process and several elected officials milled about before Newaygo County Board of Commissioners Chair Bryan Kolk took to the podium to welcome the attendees to this long awaited event.
Close to a decade since Big Prairie Township Supervisor David Wright tossed out the idea of an unprecedented non motorized trail circumferencing the body of water known as Hardy Pond the dream has moved into action and soon cyclists and hikers will be able to enjoy the crown jewel of our regions extensive trail offerings.
An array of dignitaries, shovels in hand, tossed up a bit of sand in performing the symbolic groundbreaking photo op for The Dragon but the work on this innovative addition to the parks departments of both counties has already begun. Construction is currently underway at Brower Park, Newaygo State Park and Sandy Beach County Park and the first bike wheels will be able to take to some sections of the path by next summer.
The remainder of the trail will be built in 2021
Newaygo County Administrator Chris Wren spoke of the lengthy process that began to gain some serious traction in 2015 when Newaygo and Mecosta counties ponied up $150,000 apiece to fund the development process necessary to gain approval from Consumers Energy and ultimately the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“This is a very exciting moment in history when a project 10 years in the making with partners from multiple agencies and companies becomes a reality.”
“The Dragon Trail will create a new 46 mile linear county park, jointly managed by Newaygo and Mecosta County Park Commissions,”said NC parks Director Nick Smith. “It expands the Recreation offerings of both organizations and serves as an example of how local governments can work together effectively,”
The trail will be accessed from any of the existing parks and recreation areas on and around the Pond.These locations will serve as trailheads giving users a choice of places to enter and exit. In addition, residents can access the trail in these areas or at the nearest road crossing if they choose to hike or ride from their home.
“Beyond the enhanced recreational opportunities for residents and visitors the Dragon serves as a significant draw to the area which will create more jobs and provide a positive economic impact in both counties,” added Wren.
“Once completed the Dragon will be a one of a kind trail system not found anywhere else in the world bringing outdoor enthusiasts from across the globe.”
“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.” -Ursula Le Guin, “A Wizard of Earthsea”