“Established pathways, such as the North Country Trail-Iron Belle Trail, give people an opportunity to enjoy different kinds of recreation such as hiking, biking, backpacking, cross-county skiing and bird watching,” says Richard Naperala, trail coordinator with the Grand Traverse Hiking Club (GTHC) in Kalkaska, Michigan.
Michigan is known as the trail state because of its 12,000 miles of recreational trails. The state kicks of Trails Week on Saturday, September 19. The celebration is special one this year with the opening of the newly developed Iron Belle Trail – a 2,000 mile state-wide looped trail, half of which is a hiking trail and the other half a cycling trail.
It’s also a special opening because TransCanada has committed to being the first corporate sponsor of the trail. TransCanada has committed to a $25,000 sponsorship that will be allocated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the Iron Belle Trail. TransCanada adopted the mile in the North Country Trail in Kalkaska County, home to TransCanada’s Blue Lake ANR Pipeline facilities.
“Adopting the Iron Belle will give much needed improvements to the existing trail and bring more attention to the trail for use by more of our residents and hopefully non-residents as well. We already have quite a few of our employees that utilize the existing trail and with this donation, it will improve and expand the current trails that will continue through the entire State of Michigan,” says Jen Houtman, Blue Lake area associate at TransCanada.
“The TransCanada sponsorship is very important to the Grand Traverse Hiking Club and to the Village of Kalkaska. Trails are important. People want trails. They make communities more enjoyable… it will bring in more tourists and money to the local businesses. To have a well-known, international corporation willing to provide funds and manpower to the development of a state trail gives special status and recognition to a very worthwhile project,” says Naperala.
TransCanada employees will also have the opportunity to volunteer to keep the trail safe by clearing overgrowth and fallen trees, develop TransCanada branded hiking information signs for the trail, and participating in designing and building two public notice kiosks for key public gathering areas.
The Iron Belle Trail is the vision of Governor Rick Snyder who sees this project as a way to raise environmental and recreational awareness throughout the state, and connect counties and communities who share Michigan’s abundance of natural and economic resources.