This past weekend my family and I spent a wonderful afternoon cycling on the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. The 41-mile mixed-use trail winds between Greenville and Alma through picturesque rural and wooded terrain, including several state game areas. It also follows along numerous quaint towns such as Sidney, Stanton, McBride, and Edmore, which offer places to eat, shop, or pick up supplies. On our ride, we got plenty of exercise and were able to spend several hours in the great outdoors—which always helps take the stress level down a few notches.
The trail is the result of much community support and activism, and the generous contribution of Fred and Lena Meijer. Like many of Michigan’s amazing rail trails, it provides a wonderful opportunity to get outdoors on your bike, feet, scooter, or skates and enjoy some beautiful Michigan landscapes. Trails such as these and other outdoor recreation facilities also provide an important boost to our local and state economies. They attract residents from other parts of the state and visitors from out of state who use the facilities and spend money in surrounding communities. They also contribute to the vibrancy of Michigan’s towns and cities, and help attract businesses and talented workers. In short, outdoor recreation in Michigan not only provides all sorts of health and social benefits—it is a big factor in Michigan’s economic prosperity. My family’s experience this weekend is only a small example of this: our pre-ride lunch and stop for ice cream at the end contributed a bit to the economies of those trail towns we visited.
I’ve spent the better part of this year working on projects related to the future of outdoor recreation in Michigan and all the data I have reviewed tells me what I already intuitively knew—that Michigan is blessed with amazing outdoor resources. These are places that make people happy and where visitors want to spend time. If we want Michigan to have a healthy and prosperous future, we should be investing in outdoor recreation resources such as the Heartland Trail. I hope my local and state decision makers recognize this each year when budget time rolls around.
By Shanna Draheim