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Sleeping Bear Dunes Celebrates Groundbreaking for Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

National Park News

On Friday, August 12, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and community partners held a ground-breaking ceremony for construction of the first segment of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT). The SBHT will be a hard-surfaced, multi-use trail paralleling state highways M-22 and M-109 for 27 miles through the National Lakeshore. It will provide a safe, non-motorized, multi-use recreation and transportation alternative connecting the Lakeshore’s main visitor destinations with the neighboring communities of Glen Arbor and Empire. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a project conceived and initiated by a grass-roots, citizen-led group; the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route Committee. All life cycle costs for the SBHT - planning, construction, operation, and maintenance, including component renewal – are being borne by partners.

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The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT) idea came from the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route (LSHR) Committee. The State of Michigan designated the LSHR in 2002 to promote measures which preserve and enhance the scenic, historical, and recreational characteristics of Michigan Highways 22, 109, and 204 as they traverse the rural countryside and unique villages of Leelanau County.

The LSHR Committee is made up of representatives from all 12 townships and villages along the route, Leelanau County, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the NPS, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, several private organizations, and local citizens. The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments coordinates the Committee’s activities. Information and materials can be found at The SBHT concept is supported by all members of the LSHR and is the group’s top priority.

Planning for the SBHT began in 2005 when the LSHR Committee suggested the concept to the NPS. The SBHT received repeated public reviews in the Lakeshore’s recent General Management Plan process, and was included in the final Plan. In 2009, an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the SBHT was completed that demonstrated that the SBHT will have no significant impact on the environment, and a Finding of No Significant Impact was issued on August 27, 2009.

The SBHT will be a hard-surfaced, multi-use trail paralleling M-22 and M-109 for 27 miles through the Lakeshore. It will provide a safe, non-motorized, multi-use transportation alternative connecting the Lakeshore’s main visitor destinations with Glen Arbor and Empire. The SBHT will give walkers, runners, wheelchair users, bicyclists, and baby strollers a safe, enjoyable, and car-free way to access and explore the Lakeshore and neighboring communities.

Construction of the SBHT will occur in segments over a period of approximately 10 years at a projected cost of $10 million. The fundraising plan targets 50% of the cost through Federal and State grant sources and 50% philanthropically over the first five years of the project. However, the grantwriting has been tremendously successful already, with the LSHR and Barbara-Nelson Jameson of RTCA securing over $5 million, with a few applications still pending award. Significantly, these grants have come from both recreation and transportation sources, confirming that the Trail will serve both purposes.

For the philanthropic fundraising target of $5 million, fundraising partner TART Trails is providing the operational support, database management, funds collection and retention, and donor recognition. TART Trails has written a Case Statement and budget, assembled an Endorsement Council and Campaign Cabinet, established a donor screening process, and developed fundraising materials, strategies, and timelines for a campaign entitled “Pathways to Sleeping Bear.” They have secured nearly $1 million in cash and pledges in the leadership phase of the campaign. The Pathways campaign went public on August 12, 2011.

The MDOT is the construction partner, and will carry out the planning, design, and construction of the SBHT with the funds raised for that purpose. The portion of the trail that will cross Federal lands, and all supporting planning and design documents, will become Federal property. This first segment will be completed by July, 2012, extending from the Lakeshore’s iconic Dune Climb, through the Glen Haven historic village and DH Day Campground, and on into the community of Glen Arbor. The SBHT will meet the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Standards for bicycle trails for route safety, including those for width and grade. The SBHT will be 10 feet wide with 2 feet of clearance from trees on either side. The SBHT will be constructed to meet the ADA Accessibility Standards for Outdoor Recreation wherever possible so the Lakeshore can be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical abilities.

The AASHTO standards state that a paved surface is preferable, noting that crushed aggregate "provide(s) a much lower level of service and require(s) higher maintenance." The SBHT will be hard-surfaced in order to accommodate wheeled recreation of all types, and will vary between pavement, crushed aggregate, and boardwalk, depending on the resources to be protected. The surface will be paved except where a different surface is absolutely essential to protect resources. The SBHT also uses existing transportation corridors to avoid environmental impact – old rail beds and roadways, and existing road rights-of-way and trails. It will not fragment the Lakeshore’s pristine areas nor impact proposed wilderness.

The fundraising agreement includes 10% of the fundraising target ($1 million) to be placed in an investment account to address Total Cost of Operation of the SBHT. In addition, the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes have committed to performing preventive maintenance, and operations on the trail. A thorough analysis has been initiated by the Lakeshore, the NPS Facility Management Division, and contractors from Booz, Allen, Hamilton, and calculates that the investment amount and maintenance partnership will be sufficient to cover all costs into year 25 of the SBHT. As a result, no Operations Formulation System request will be prepared. Because Lakeshore staff will administer the operation and maintenance account and supervise the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes volunteers, the Lakeshore is the responsible party in the operation and maintenance agreement. The goal remains to address Operation and Maintenance of the SBHT without the use of appropriated funds to manage this new asset.


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