An Eye On the Great Lakes State - 10 Great Things Happening in Michigan

Posted 11/04/13 by Jake Lynch in Success Stories

Photo of Don Cunkle repairing a bicycle © Recycle-A-Bicycle

10 Great Things Happening in Michigan

1. The Cross-State Trail.

It mightn't have a name yet, but Gov. Rick Snyder's impressive vision of a trail network across Michigan, from Detroit through the Upper Peninsula to the Wisconsin border, has delighted trails advocates. Connecting a number of existing trails, many of them rail-trails, Snyder's plan focuses on developing strategic linkages through acquiring easements and savvy land purchases. When completed, this remarkable off-road pathway will not only boost local trail use but also attract visitors from across the country. The nation is now watching to see how Snyder will carry out his ambitious plan. 

Photo © Detroit Bike City

2. Slow Roll.

"It started with just a small group of friends and people we knew, about 10 of us, who wanted to explore the city by bike," Mike MacKool told RTC when we visited Detroit last month. Turns out, there were a lot of Detroiters who wanted to do the same. In just 3 years, grassroots buzz and word of mouth turned this casual Monday night bike ride, Slow Roll, into a city phenomenon (right). This year, up to 1,600 riders - all ages, colors, styles and sizes - came together once a week for the love of Detroit and wind in the hair. We'll be writing more about the homegrown goodness that is Slow Roll and other city bike rides later this month: stay tuned.

3. Modeshift.

An online magazine, Modeshift has been instrumental in shedding light on the transportation and environmental challenges for southeast Michigan. A compelling blend of news and advocacy, Modeshift is keeping a close eye on the big state agencies and its elected officials and doing what good news outlets are supposed to do - keeping their feet to the fire. Modeshift also recently launched an ambitious project to build a digital mapping platform for residents of southeast Michigan to mark detailed bike routes and trails, and bike-friendly businesses and transit providers.

4. Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

Okay, it's not possible to explain all the great things Nancy Krupiarz and MTGA is doing in Michigan - if there's a cool trail project or initiative happening in the state, chances are their fingerprints are on it somewhere. Nancy's leadership and advocacy for trails in Michigan is one of the biggest reason why this state has more rail-trail mileage than any other. This month we'll be examining a few of their latest projects, including the Great Lake to Lake Trail, a 250-mile trail corridor from South Haven to Port Huron. Their new website is awesome, too.

5. Traverse City's Recycle-A-Bicycle.

Seven years ago Don Cunkle began repairing old bikes in his garage for local folks unable to afford their own wheels. For the first couple of yearsCherry Capital Cycling Club provided financial support for Cunkle's booming service (left), and now the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails (TART) has gotten behindRecycle-A-Bicycle, with the awesome mission of providing bikes for the area's homeless and economically disadvantaged men and women. Each customer also receives a lock, lights, and a lifetime of free repairs on the bike when needed. The program is having a massive impact on the ability of these locals to access jobs and services - the gift of two wheels is truly a transformative intervention.

6. The Detroit Greenways Coalition

Led by champion Detroiter Todd Scott, the Detroit Greenways Coalition is pulling together the city, the state, local foundations, businesses and grassroots advocates behind a vision to make the Motor City better for wheels and feet. This is no idle chatter - in just a few years the DGA has overseen a remarkable expansion in bike lane and trail mileage in the city. There is so much good news coming out of Detroit - just a few of the highlights include the continued development of pathways along the Detroit Riverfront, the expansion of the Dequindre Cut and the creation of Complete Streets policy. (And Todd's twitter feed: @detroitgreenway).

7. Detroit's East Side Riders.

When Mike Neeley learned he had diabetes about five years ago he decided he wanted to do something to lose weight and improve his health. Not content with a regular old bike ride, he and his brother Dywayne formed a two-wheeled crew big on personality, lights and color. Today, the East Side Riders, famous for their super-revamped bikes fitted with everything from bright lights, stickers and horns to TVs, radios and, yeah, a barbecue, is credited with popularizing bicycling in the city. (See also: GMOB, Inkster Pedal Pushers, Southwest, Downriver). Words don't do it justice. Check out photos of the East Side Riders in this Huffington Post article...

8. The expansion of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.

A beautiful rail-trail with an excellent group of local supporters and planners behind it, the KRVT has spurred an increase in biking and walking in Kalamazoo County.  The completion of a 2.7-mile leg from Mayors' Riverfront Park east to Comstock Township last year, funded by a Transportation Alternatives (TA) grant brings the trail's total distance to 17 miles, nearly halfway to the final goal of 35 miles. Up next: extending the trail from Comstock further east to Galesburg. A big reason for the trail's success: the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail partnership, which has brought all the state and local players to the table to work together on fundraising and planning.

9. The Fred Meijer trails network.

Having made his fortune in the grocery business, in the early CBDE52A7-7662-4829-8CC7-F8E6BE73462As Fred Meijer funded the purchase of the first rail-trail right-of-way in Michigan, inspired by his passionate belief that the people of Michigan should explore the beautiful outdoor areas of their state. That purchase became the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. In turn, the Heartland Trail became centerpiece of the Fred Meijer trails network, which, supported by the excellent Friends of Fred Meijer Heartland Trail and the Meijer Foundation, continues to grow. The latest segment, from Ionia to Saranac, through the Ionia State Recreation Area, has just been completed.

10. The progress of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

As much an exploration of Michigan's past as a place of transportation and recreation, theIron Ore Heritage Trail is already regarded as one of the state's iconic rail-trails. There's a lot of support for this ambitious trail project in the Upper Peninsula - Gov. Snyder himself was on hand to cut the ribbon of the latest 12 mile segment, from Negaunee to Marquette, this summer. That makes 30 miles completed, and 18 more to go. 
"Our best days are not behind us, they're ahead of us," Gov. Snyder said at the ribbon-cutting. It's a sentiment that we think applies to communities all over Michigan.


Do you know of a trail, project, local organization or citizen that deserves recognition in our celebration of Michigan this month? Don't keep it under your hat! Let me know at, or share through our facebooktwitter or instagram feeds -#RTCMichigan.

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