Moving Trail Town Communities forward!
Strategies for forming committees and taking the next steps.
Trail Town committees are sprouting up around Michigan. Several committees have developed in Michigan’s Thumb as a result of a year-long Coastal Zone Management grant designed to bring the East Coast concept to the region. Michigan’s Thumb region, made primarily up of St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron and Tuscola counties are very active towards outfitting their downtown areas and trail networks to attract visitors in places like Port Austin, Harbor Beach, Port Sanilac, Lexington, St. Clair and Marine City.
Trail Towns, discussed previously in Port Huron’s First Trail Towns committee kicks off 2015!, are designed to leverage trails’ economic benefits for residential and visiting users. It has been applied as a tool for community revitalization and economic development.
A number of trail efforts have developed in Michigan during the last couple of years. In 2014, Governor Snyder signed legislation that established the Pure Michigan Trail Network designed to enhance our reputation as the Trail State. He stated, “The Pure Michigan Trails designation will help showcase the unlimited outdoor recreation activities and many great resources our state has to offer to residents and visitors alike”. He called for roughly 200 miles of additional trails in both peninsulas. Late last year, Port Huron became home to Michigan’s first National Water Trail, the Island Loop. There are only 14 in the entire country, one of which begins in downtown Port Huron navigating through the Black River and along the coast between the United States and Canada.
Communities can establish a Trail Town by developing their own strategy or look at adopting what is called the “Four Point Approach,” which was developed by the National Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It includes organization, promotion, design and economics.
Once a committee is formed, according to Land Information Access Association (LIAA), members can then begin to work on achievable task, such as:
- Identifying priorities
- Identifying responsibilities
- Working collaboratively and closely with regional partners
- Marketing Images of both cycling and paddling trails in print and digital media
- Getting both residents, local businesses, and public officials on the trail to experience it will help make the connection to understanding its potential for community prosperity
- Seeking out funding for improvements and signage for all users
There are a number of additional approaches to tourism development that can sustain communities as well. The Michigan State University Extension website houses a number of resources relative to planning, placemaking, sustainable tourism development and community economic development. MSU Extension has experts in tourism working throughout Michigan that can assist communities and counties in sustainable tourism development.
Other articles in this series: