DNR seeks grant to pave White Pine Trail from Leroy to Reed City

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BIKE: Michael Bowman tries to beat the rain on a bike ride down the White Pine Trail Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Devin Anderson)

OSCEOLA COUNTY ㅡ Plans to pave a bare 40 miles of Michigan’s longest trail are now in motion.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently applied for a grant to pave the 92-mile Fred Meijer White Pine Trail with asphalt from Leroy to Reed City.

“We’re happy the plan is moving along,” said Friends of the White Pine Trail Chairman Dave Heyboer. “It’s a big step forward. We’re optimistic we’ll see major progress in the next few years.”

In June, Heyboer, along with dozens of trial users and several state legislators, challenged the DNR’s plans to pave 40 miles of the trail with crushed limestone. The $4 million project, funded with grant money from the Michigan Department of Transportation, was put on hold following a large public outcry for asphalt paving.

“The limestone paving was a ‘Band-Aid’ approach,” said Larry Emig, chairman of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners. “People didn’t feel it would last as long as asphalt.”

At its Aug. 18 meeting, Osceola County Commissioners approved a motion to support the asphalt paving of the White Pine Trail by the DNR.

“There was no commitment on our part to contribute financially, so we showed our support,” Emig said. “Asphalt would certainly be a major improvement and people would use the trail more.”

The DNR reapplied for a similar grant from MDOT to pave the 11.8-mile stretch of trail between Leroy and Reed City instead of the full 40 miles due to the increased cost of using asphalt.

“We will know soon if we are successful with the grant application and, if lucky, should be able to put the project out for bid in late 2016,” said Paul Yauk, of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “We will apply for additional funds to complete the other 30 miles of the trail in following years.”

 

WHITE PINE: Noah Beckwith (left) and Ricky Near (right), both of Paris, ride the White Pine Trail to Big Rapids frequently and are excited the trail could be paved from Reed City to Leroy. (Pioneer photo/Devin Anderson)

The trail currently is paved with asphalt from Reed City south to Big Rapids. The trail south of Big Rapids is bare until Sand Lake.

Big Rapids City Manager Steve Sobers said the city always has welcomed any improvement to the White Pine Trail whether it be limestone or asphalt. The city has no plans to put up money for asphalt paving, but Sobers said the city is interested in reopening the old Big Rapids train depot, possibly as a visitor center, where the trail lets off.

“The trail is a pretty important tourist attraction and community attraction,” Sobers said. “If we really wanted to support the trail, the approach the city would take would be to improve the train depot.”

According to Sobers, the city already has conducted a survey of the depot and surrounding land. The property is currently owned by the state of Michigan, but Sobers is hopeful the depot will have a useful future.

“We’d love to make the depot a matter of pride for the community,” he said.

Big Rapids currently maintains the White Pine Trail within city limits, mowing the trail and filling potholes.

This fall, the DNR will spend $700,000 making repairs to the Tamarack Creek Bridge and Rice Creek Bridge along the White Pine Trail near Howard City.

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TRAIL: A bridge just north of Big Rapids on the White Pine Trail. The DNR has plans to fully pave the 92-mile trail with asphalt in years to come. (Pioneer photo/Devin Anderson)

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