Recreation To Boost Revitalization?
Trail Project Looms As Economic Boon To The Cloud
By Charles Chandler
On June 7, 2014 the City of White Cloud received their Trail Town Designation from the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), the culmination of several years of hard work and successful collaboration by a diverse group of folks that helped build a beautiful trail connecting White Cloud to the North Country National Scenic Trail. To celebrate this designation the City of White Cloud and...
...the River Country Chamber of Commerce hosted the First Annual Trail Town Celebration in September of 2015 in the White Cloud Camp Ground and Park. That event was a success by any measure but was only the beginning.
Now that the trail foot print is on the ground and White Cloud is a designated Trail Town the two groups are committed to developing the trail and their brand image as a trail town with the associated local and regional recreational opportunities that it brings.
On Tuesday July 5th a meeting was held at the White River Lodge in the White Cloud Park to begin the next phase of this trail and brand development initiative. The meeting host was Andrea Ketchmark Director of Trail Development for NCTA who opened the meeting by welcoming attendees representing Newaygo County, Fremont Area Community Foundation, River Country Chamber of Commerce, the US Forest Service, NCEDO, NCTA and the City of White Cloud.
The key presenter for the meeting was Harry Burkholder from the Land Information Access Association (LIAA) a federally funded 501 (c)(3) organization from Traverse City that offers a wide range of community planning services aimed at helping communities create sustainable natural resource management policies and practices.
Mr. Burkholder is a community planner with LIAA and an advisor to statewide trail development efforts. He gave an overview of what it means to be a Trail Town and gave examples of Trail Towns in Michigan and the work ILAA is doing with some to enhance trail development and creating master plans to capture the economic opportunities that trails bring to those municipalities. According to Burkholder, “over 2,000 miles of trails in Michigan travel directly through municipality and townships.
In the last several years, as the full economic potential of linking trails, recreation, tourism and business development has become better known, the Trail Town concept has caught on. According to an article from the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy, Communities around the country are increasingly utilizing the ‘Trail Town’ model of economic revitalization that places trails as the centerpiece of a tourism-centered strategy for small town revitalization.”
Next, Ms. Ketchmark announced that NCTA and LIAA have developed a partnership as a way toward enhancing the existing North Country Trail Town Program. To do so, LIAA and NCTA have agreed to a Trail Town Enhancement project that will better connect these communities with the trail and its users. This project is funded by a grant from the US Forest Service.
The output from the Trail Towns Enhancement Project will be a set of tools and resources for NCTA to use with communities to help them become a better Trail Towns including a Trail Town Guidebook, a local Demonstration Project that leads White Cloud through the process of discovering and making enhancements to improve its position as a Trail Town, and a series of Educational Sessions to help implement the plan laid out in the Guidebook.
At the next meeting Mr. Burkholder and Ms. Ketchmark will help recruit a local project steering committee, review and inventory White Cloud’s, current assets, and schedule subsequent meetings to begin the demonstration sessions and craft the master implementation plan.
In closing Director Ketchmark mentioned again that this collaborative project with ILAA, NCTA and White Cloud will not only improve and showcase the North Country National Scenic Trail in and around White Cloud, but also offer opportunities for all sorts of outdoor recreationists coming to the Manistee National Forest, including paddlers and anglers on the White River and the growing number of road cyclists passing through the area.
In addition the project offers local businesses the opportunity to successfully market to all of these outdoor enthusiasts anticipated to make White Cloud their recreation destination.