Railroad is repurposed into a revitalizing regional connector for Michigan counties

Trail advocates believe a new $2 million pathway connecting two Michigan counties will foster a greater sense of community in the region.

More than 200 cyclists and walkers showed up for the grand opening of the Wolverine State’s latest rail-trail last month. About 35 miles north of Flint, the 7-mile Saginaw County to Bay County Connector (SCTBCC) joins the 17.5-mile Bay County Riverwalk to Saginaw County, where it will link up to the 2-mile Zilwaukee Pathway within the next 12-18 months.

Eastern Michigan’s 7-mile Saginaw County to Bay County Connector is lined with trees and traverses picturesque farmland. The paved rail-trail follows the former Detroit and Mackinac Railway, which hauled both timber and passengers during its heyday in the early half of the 20th century.

Once fully constructed, this regional trail will consist of nearly 100 miles of trail connecting Midland, Bay, and Saginaw counties, and the many destinations along the route. More than 60 miles of the system are currently open.

Local residents are excited about the boost to both economic development and their quality of life,” said Mike Kelly, Great Lakes Office Director of the Conservation Fund. “People have a checklist when they’re considering moving to a new area, and recreational options, like this trail, are at or near the top of their list.

A major artery in the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail Network that links Bay and Saginaw counties to Midland County, planners anticipate more than 100 miles of interconnecting trail among the three communities upon completion.

The Saginaw County to Bay County Connector is part of the 2033-mile Iron Belle Trail that’s currently under development. It’s is a set of two trails—one for hiking and one for biking—that will span the state of Michigan. The trails will go between Detroit’s Belle Isle State Park and Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula. When complete, the hiking trail will be 1,259 miles (2,026 km) long and the biking trail will be 774 miles (1,246 km) long. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is coordinating the planning and construction of the missing trail segments.

Photo credit: Mike Kelly, Conservation Fund

See full article by Robert Annis in Rails-To-Trails.

See SCTBCC website.

See the Conservation Fund website.

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