ESCANABA - Delta County is now among several other Upper Peninsula counties supporting a southern U.P. route for Gov. Rick Synder's proposed multi-use trail from downstate Belle Isle to Ironwood.
The Delta County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution in support of the southern U.P. route at Tuesday's county board meeting.
Dickinson County Commissioner Barb Kramer asked the board to adopt the resolution of support to develop and promote the trail that would span some 900 miles in Michigan and include the southern U.P. counties of Gogebic, Iron, Dickinson, Menominee, Delta, Schoolcraft, and Mackinac counties - instead of through the northern U.P. route along Lake Superior proposed by Gov. Snyder last fall. By unanimously approving the resolution, Delta County became the sixth of the seven counties to unanimously support the proposal.
According to the resolution, the southern trail would meander adjacent to U.S. 2, along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and through wooded areas offering a scenic route with many points of interest and opportunities for sightseeing.
"The reason I'd like to do this is because I believe in economic development, not just for Dickinson County, but for the entire U.P., and the southern U.P. especially can use economic help and support," said Kramer, who addressed the board.
She cited a number of statistics regarding bicycling and how it can attract tourists who become seasonal or permanent residents, attract commerce, enhance communities, provide a healthy lifestyle alternative, and attract younger workers to live in an area with recreational and cultural opportunities. It also has an economic impact to the community through the purchase of bike gear, equipment and supplies as well as through money spent locally by cyclists for food, lodging and more.
"Bicycling contributes $17 billion a year to the U.S. economy," said Kramer. "I think that we, as the southern counties, need to look at that very seriously and say we want a part of that."
She also highlighted several communities in the Midwest that have benefitted from installing a bike trail and said building a trail would also increase land values and property tax revenue.
The goal, at the very least, is to have the southern U.P. be a part of the multi-use path discussion, said Kramer; she plans to ask Gov. Snyder personally to consider the trail through the southern counties.
"The northern counties will get their bike trail too, but I think we should start here because we have more connectivity, more accessibility,...we share the border with Wisconsin starting in Menominee and going all the way through Ironwood and we can get a lot of tourists from Wisconsin coming north into Michigan that way," she said.
If the project was ultimately approved, she said the county board of commissioners would decide where the trail would go, but in Delta County they would need to make sure it connects to Menominee and Schoolcraft counties.
"We're in the very early stages of this," said Kramer. "I'm just trying to stay ahead of the game here and keeping the governor's office informed, keeping MDOT informed that we're doing this."
Ultimately Kramer said she envisions all counties in the U.P. being interconnected by bike trails and having a U.P. 1000 bicycle race someday, with the starting point alternating among the U.P.'s 15 counties.