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West Michigan Water Trails Final Report

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Appendices
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Appendix 1

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Appendix 2

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Appendix 3

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Appendix 4

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Appendix 5

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Appendix 6

 


For updates and information on the West Michigan Water Trail or to leave a comment on the plan, please let us know!

Water trails are designated routes on navigable waterways such as rivers, lakes, and canals that are designed and implemented to foster an educational and recreational experience. They provide safe access to and information about waterways while also providing connections to cultural, historical and other attractions. They are intended for non-motorized uses such as kayaks; other users depend on the character and conditions of each water trail. Water Trails contribute to local communities by stimulating local economies and expanding interest in the protection of these globally-unique freshwater resources.

There are existing trails at various locations on the Great Lakes, as well as on inland waterways in Michigan and neighboring states. Some of these are well established, such as the section of Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes in Northwest Michigan and the Pictured Rocks area of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula, but others have insufficient access points, signage, and amenities.

This research project is funded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Zone Management Program. The West Michigan Water Trail initiative is complementary to a series of similar DEQ-funded projects occurring along the length of the Lake Michigan shoreline this year that will document inland and lakeshore assets for the water trail. For instance, the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission is surveying potential Lake Michigan access points on inland lakes and streams throughout Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, and northern Ottawa counties.

This project is unique in that it seeks to gather information from a larger constituent, broadening the continuity of the water trails initiative to include inland sites such as lodging, camping, restaurants and convenience stores. In addition to mapping weather and climactic data, access locations, points of interest and other assets, this research project seeks input from the lakeshore communities. Input is vital in order to be able to develop the plan and gauge the level of community interest. Recognizing that watersports are not only communal and athletic but also commercial endeavors–that paddlers are also patrons–is vital to anticipating and monitoring the ripple effects of geotourism. This initiative hopes to illustrate the current state of non-motorized activity in the Great Lakes and propel management of ongoing use in a way that is environmentally and economically responsible.

How do you define a Water Trail?

West Michigan Water Trails encompass not only the access points and direct amenities, but dynamic features of the lakeshore (weather-related components) and connections to underwater and off-shore components such as cultural, historical, and ecological landmarks, in addition to lodging and other related businesses. For information on other Great Lakes water trails see: http://www.michiganwatertrails.org

 

Who uses water trails?

Water trails are intended for non-motorized watercraft users. Type of watercraft is dependent on the character and conditions of each water trail, and may include surfing, wind surfing, kite boarding, parasailing, paddling, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, hang gliding, sailing, fishing, and swimming. Water Trails contribute to communities by stimulating local economies and expanding interest in the protection of our globally-unique freshwater resources.

 

Will there be suggested entry sites for all users?

Yes. Part of this research project is to catalog all public access points and amenities from Benton Harbor to Ludington as well as to identify gaps in points and amenities, identifying needs such as racks for watercraft storage, public bathrooms, and available parking.

 

With increased access points, how will we manage private property concerns?

Part of our task is to address these kinds of questions and concerns. Effective marketing and informational materials will outline “safe practices” and “good stewardship” of the water trail. Our plan is to engage in conversations with water trail users as well as private residents to avoid trespassing and outline rules and obligations for water trail use.

Our plan will also address recommendations for effective signage to better define public and private access points to the water trail.

 

Who is going to pay for the trail?

This project will provide a “blueprint” for implementation. Additional funding will have to be provided to make the plans a reality.

 

How is this project unique?

This initiative is complementary to a series of similarly funded projects occurring along the Lake Michigan shoreline this year where Regional Planning Organizations are documenting inland and lakeshore assets and recommending potential enhancements to local governments that can contribute to a comprehensive Lake Michigan Water Trail. This project builds on existing relationships in the coastal communities and engages the public in conversations about the economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the initiative. Community meetings will be held in the primary coastal population centers.

This project is unique in that it seeks to gather information from a larger constituent, broadening the continuity of the water trails initiative to include inland sites such as lodging, camping, restaurants and convenience stores. In addition to mapping weather and climactic data, access locations, points of interest and other assets, this research project seeks input from the lakeshore communities. Input is vital to develop this blueprint and gauge the level of community interest. Watersports are not only communal and athletic endeavors, but also commercial–paddlers are also patrons. Recognizing this will allow communities to anticipate and monitor the ripple effects of geotourism. This initiative hopes to illustrate the current state of non-motorized activity in the Great Lakes and propel management of ongoing use in a way that is environmentally and economically responsible.

 

Who is paying for this project?

Financial assistance for this project was provided, in part, by the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.

 

How can I give input?

Twenty-one public meetings will be scheduled between January and May.

These meetings will occur in a series of three at seven location along the western Michigan coastline: Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, South Haven, Saugatuck/Douglas/Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Whitehall/Montague, and Ludington.

If you are not able to attend these meetings or wish to comment privately, you are invited to give those comments or suggestions online.

We want to hear from you!

A series of 18 public meetings will be scheduled for times between January and April.

There will be series of three meetings at seven locations along the western Michigan coastline. These seven communities include Benton Harbor/St. Joe, South Haven, Saugatuck/Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Whitehall/Montague, Ludington.

If you are not able to make it to these meetings or wish to make your comments privately, you are invited to give those comments or suggestions by filling out your email information!

Find meetings near you:

 

Benton Harbor June 24th 5:00 PM Michigan Works2, 499 W. Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI
Grand Haven June 30th 4:30 PM Grand Haven Community Center, 430 Columbus Ave, GH
Muskegon June 30th 3:30 PM GVSU’s Annis Water Resources Institute, 740 W. Shoreline Drive, Muskegon, MI
Holland/Saugatuck  June 24th 10:00 AM Holland City Hall, Training Room, 270 South River Avenue, Holland
Ludington June 24th 5:00 PM Lundington CVB Conference Room, 5300 US 10, Ludington, MI
Whitehall June 23rd 5:00 PM White Lake Community Library, 3900 White Lake Drive, Whitehall, MI
South Haven June 25th 10:00 AM Lake Michigan College – South Haven Campus, 125 Veterans Blvd, South Haven, MI

(Meetings are still being scheduled, please check back soon or sign up for our email list.)

After 11 of our 18 meetings. Here are some of our findings so far!

  • There are many non-motorized users who are active in Lake Michigan
    • At our public meetings we have heard from many different user groups including paddlers, surfers, sailers, kite boarders, etc.
    • These various groups all use the lake differently, and they use different access points based on conditions of the water.
      • For example a surfer needs waves, so they will use wavy areas that kayakers often avoid.
  • The costal region has varying weather patterns and coastal conditions
    • This may seem obvious, but this makes a big difference on how people interact with Lake Michigan. There are certain parts of the lake that are good for paddling and others places good for surf. So this means we need to be intentional in how we promote certain access points along this water trail to ensure the safety of all users.
  • The users are both local and from across the county
    • The local users are familiar with the climate and conditions of the water
    • Those who are not local are less familiar with the water and access points
      • These users likely need informative signage and good guides to help them understand the conditions of the water
      • These users will have an large impact on the local economy of the area
        • They will require places to sleep, eat, rest, and shop. They may also need equipment.

Grand Valley State University Hospitality and Tourism Management:

Michael Scantlebury, Scott Rood, Kendall Gilbert, Mark Gleason, Robert Robins, Wells Lynee, Rachel Shane

West Michigan Environmental Action Council:

Rachel Hood, Elaine S. Isely, Joshua Leffingwell

Contributing Support:

  • Southwest Michigan Planning Commission
  • West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission
  • Grand Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • South Haven Visitors Bureau
  • Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Holland Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Best Choice Market, Ludington
  • Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University