Newaygo and Mecosta County plan on building 40-mile loop by 2016
Posted by Dan Meloy on January 28th, 2015
NEW TRAIL: Representative from Newaygo and Mecosta counties are working on building a
40-mile loop for mountain biking, using the Hardy Dam as part of the trail.
BIG RAPIDS — Mountain bikers might have a new trail to explore in Northern Michigan.
They’ll just have to wait until 2016.Representatives from Newaygo and Mecosta counties have been meeting to discuss a proposed mountain biking trail around Hardy Dam Pond.
The trail was first proposed by Newaygo County Big Prairie Township Supervisor Dave Wright,
but after looking into the idea of a path, he took the plan to Newaygo County Administrator Tobi
Newaygo County commissioners discussed what to do about the proposed trail, and the county
reached out to Mecosta County for additional support, leading to the proposed 40-mile loop that
would go through both counties.
The trail would circumnavigate the Hardy Dam Pond, with the dam and 8 Mile Road serving as
crossings. The trail is designed to go through various campgrounds in the area and could be a
major draw for tourists. Most of the property around the pond is owned by Consumers Energy, with two-thirds of the
land in Newaygo County and the rest in Mecosta County. Michigan State University Extension did an economic assessment study on the proposed trail, which stated the path is expected to generate “modest economic impacts”.
The report estimated the trail would contribute less than a 0.5 percent increase in overall economic activity, but could generate approximately 70 additional jobs in tourism-related establishments.
The group found MSU Extension’s report favorable and contacted the Michigan Mountain
Biking Association, which walked the trail and returned with a $1.2 million estimate
“Once we got an estimate from the Michigan Biking Association, things got more realistic,” said
Eric O’Neil, Mecosta County commissioner. “Any time you estimate, you estimate construction
on the high side. And we plan on having volunteers to cut back a little on labor costs.”
Before the first patch of trail can be built, the group needs approval from the Michigan
Department of Transportation, since the 8 Mile Road Bridge is on a state highway, and also the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which monitors and regulates what can be constructed
on Consumer’s property.
“For the FERC license to operate the Harvey Dam, we have a land management project,” said
Rich Castle, Consumers Energy natural resources administrator. “It’s a document that provides
what we can and cannot do. Anytime we get a proposal, we have to review that proposal with the
standards that are part of the land management guidelines.”
Lake estimates a best-case scenario is approvals are granted in 2015 and constriction begins in
In the meantime, the group is tackling the other major obstacle to this project: money.
“Our goal right now is to talk to foundations that might be interested,” Lake said. “We’ve
reached out to the Fremont and Mecosta foundations for support and Consumers has expressed
The group plans to ask each county for $150,000 upfront to encourage more municipalities and
group to donate to the project and hopes for $250,000 in private donations. The group of 25 to 30
people meets regularly to discuss fundraising and getting approval, with their next planned
meeting in March.
“Even if you only build half of it, people could still use some of the trail,” O’Neil said. “We are
still in talks about funding. People don’t want to commit money until their approval, but
Consumers won’t approve until there is funding.”
Once the trail is completed, it will include more than 100 bridges, slopes, and a view of the pond
that O’Neil said will be a big tourist draw for both Newaygo and Mecosta counties.
“One of the guys from the International Mountain Biking Association said this will not only be
one of the premier trails in the Midwest, but the whole country. The economic impact could
mean a lot to the area, and it would be a cool addition to our community.”
Wahlfield, Merrell and Luton trails are closed until further notice. The chain will be put up and locked tomorrow a.m. The rain can not drain through the frozen ground and riding it will cause trail damage and widening worse than ever! Go ride the Ski Area, Yankee or Ionia instead
The trails are Clopen during the freeze/thaw season.. What the? I just made that up, closed when above 32 degrees or muddy but open when below freezing or dry.
Please come help us spread crushed asphalt on the entrance and exit of the Green Loop (new parking lot) that is getting damaged during the freeze/thaw season. To save us a trip getting the trailer out of storage please bring shovels, steel rakes and wheelbarrows.