Roscommon-area Iron Belle Trail link nears completion

Contact: Doug Donnelly, 517-284-6109
Agency: Natural Resources

June 12, 2017

an under-construction trail through a pine forestEfforts that started this spring to complete a 2-mile segment of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail at North Higgins Lake State Park in Roscommon County are nearing completion – a project that, once finished, will make it safer and more enjoyable for visitors to make their way around Higgins Lake.

Tree-clearing for the project began in March and early April to discourage the spread of oak wilt. Tree stumps and top soil were removed to begin placement of the trail base, and asphalt is expected to be laid for the project soon. The trail is 10 feet wide with 2-foot shoulders and runs from West Higgins Lake Drive to Forest Avenue.

“I think it’s a great addition not only to North Higgins Lake State Park, but also to the Iron Belle Trail,” said Josh Pellow, park supervisor. “The trail will allow a safe, scenic route for all types of users at this state park.”

It’s been the community’s desire to make a safe route around Higgins Lake, and this is a step in the right direction for that goal.”

The land in the vicinity of the parks along Higgins Lake is heavily developed with permanent residences, vacation homes and rental properties. The population of the area significantly increases during the summer months, adding to the traffic volumes on the roadways. Pellow said the trail provides visitors and residents in the area a healthy, safe, alternative route to visit the parks, which is a boost for local businesses too.

The engineering firm hired for the project is Lansing-based C2AE. The project is being funded in part by the Department of Natural Resources Recreation Trail Program and Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant dollars. While trail construction at North Higgins Lake State Park was part of this bid project, this grant funding also will support stump removal and rough grading for a similar, 1-mile portion at South Higgins Lake State Park.

“When people see this trail, I think that they are going to be excited about it and want to see it extended,” said Larry Fox, project manager for C2AE. “It’s an excellent start to this area’s portion of the Iron Belle Trail and Higgins Lake trail networks.”

The 2-mile segment, which passes by the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center, is just one piece of an overall network of trails planned in the Roscommon area.

A future phase of the Iron Belle Trail on state-managed public land, for example, will take the trail from the historic Higgins Lake Nursery/Civilian Conservation Corps Museum grounds north to Fletcher Road – an area nicknamed “Cradle of Forestry” for its critical role in reforesting the state of Michigan. The Iron Belle Trail touches on countless historic and heritage corridors in the state. This area near Roscommon is known as the birthplace of the forest industry in Michigan. Several interpretive signs exist along the trail, and the addition of more signs has been proposed.

Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail is the longest state-designated trail in the nation, encompassing more than 2,000 miles of Michigan on hiking and biking routes, allowing users to explore pristine forests and cool rivers while connecting big cities to smaller and diverse towns. The trail extends from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula.

The trail was first proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013 as a "Showcase Trail" for the state and has evolved into thousands of miles and dozens of partnerships between the DNR and various communities. The Iron Belle uses existing trails where feasible, along with some new construction. It touches 48 Michigan counties and more than 240 townships in the state.

Learn more about the Iron Belle Trail – and explore the interactive trail map – at www.michigan.gov/ironbelle.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

An accompanying photo is available below for download. A suggested caption follows.

Efforts to complete a 2-mile segment of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail at North Higgins Lake State Park in Roscommon County are nearing completion.