Grand Valley and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council will, over the next year, design the framework for a Lake Michigan Water Trail connecting Benton Harbor to Ludington.
Water trails are intended for non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, surfing, windsurfing and kite-surfing, and are designed to foster an interactive, historical education experience.
Existing trails can be found on the Great Lakes, as well as on inland waterways in Michigan. Several are well established, such as the section of Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Pictured Rocks area of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula.
“This will close a significant gap in the coastal trails network of the State of Michigan and the Great Lakes in general,” said Michael Scantlebury, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management. “Our home stretch of coastline has some of the best cultural, historical, and natural assets in the region. A Lake Michigan Water Trail will be an incredible boon for recreation and tourism in West Michigan.”
Scantlebury said the water trail is a historic effort that can create an undivided voice for investment in, and protection of, West Michigan’s freshwater resources.
The project will build on existing relationships in Lake Michigan coastal communities and engage the public in conversations about the economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the initiative. Community meetings will be held in the seven primary coastal population centers — St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, South Haven, Saugatuck/Douglas, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, and Pentwater/Ludington.
Grand Valley faculty, with the support of students, will be responsible for market and product assessment for this West Michigan Water Trail. Of particular interest are cultural and historic maritime resources such as lighthouses, shipwrecks, and other Great Lakes maritime heritage features.
The $200,000 project was made possible through a $95,000 grant from the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program (MCZMP), Office of the Great Lakes, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.
Learn more about the initiative at www.westmichiganwatertrail.com. For more information, contact Michael Scantlebury at Grand Valley at (616) 331-2705, or Elaine Sterrett Isely at West Michigan Environmental Action Council, (616) 451-3051, ext. 25.