January 18, 2012
The Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route Committee, Michigan Department of Transportation, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) are proud to announce that a second Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant has been awarded to the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT) in the amount of $1.337 million in construction funds from its Paul S. Sarbanes Transit-in-Parks program. The funds will be used to construct the SBHT segment through the National Lakeshore from Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to Empire.
"The trail partners are very pleased by this second transit grant award," said Patty O'Donnell of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, who coordinates the activities of the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route Committee. "This award emphasizes the recognition of the SBHT as a meaningful transportation alternative, as well as an outstanding recreational opportunity."
The SBHT will be a hard-surfaced, multi-use trail paralleling state highways M-22 and M-109 for 27 miles through the National Lakeshore. It will provide a safe, non-motorized, multi-use transportation alternative connecting the National Lakeshore's main visitor destinations with the neighboring communities of Glen Arbor and Empire. The first 4.3 mile segment, from the Dune Climb to Glen Arbor, will be built this spring and open for use by July.
A total of approximately $6.3 million in federal funding has now been awarded for construction of the SBHT from Empire to the Port Oneida Rural Historic District. These funds require a match of $850,000 for completion, and to date, over $500,000 in private foundation and individual donations has been raised. Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails, Inc., (TART) Trails Director Julie Clark, whose organization is coordinating the private fundraising effort, was excited by the grant award announcement. "As this significant piece of federal funding falls in place, we are well over halfway to meeting the match requirement." said Clark. "If a few more trail supporters and community members step forward and contribute, we can all be hiking and biking the SBHT from Empire to Port Oneida by 2014!"
Congress established the Transit-in-Parks program to enhance protection of national parks and federal lands and increase visitor enjoyment. Administered by the FTA in partnership with the Department of Interior and the Forest Service, the program funds capital and planning expenses for alternative transportation systems, such as shuttle buses and bicycle trails, in national parks and public lands. The program goals are to conserve natural, historical, and cultural resources, and reduce congestion and pollution.
For more information on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, please contact Patty O'Donnell at 231-929-5039 or National Lakeshore Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich at 231-326-5134. For information on how to contribute to the SBHT effort, visit http://sleepingbeartrail.org/.