Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
Opportunities for an “Along the Shore” segment
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Mansfield and Associates, Inc., as part of a professional review of the environmental assessment completed by the National Park Service, have identified some of the advantages to the “Along the Shore” route as compared to the Traverse Lake Road Options.
The benefits of an “Along the Shore” trail:
It provides an enhanced natural experience to the trail user, including the sights and sounds of
Lake Michigan. This route creates a far superior trail experience for recreational users (walkers, bikers, roller bladders, wheel chairs, cross country skiers) than a trail along Traverse Lake Road.
It avoids the wetland areas near Shalda Creek and the Buffka Farm and eliminates the need for constructing a bridge over Shalda Creek. There is a small seasonal stream which can be crossed easily.
It avoids the need to excavate significant critical dune hills, which are protected under state law, along Traverse Lake Road and along M-22 north of the Bufka Farm. The route along the Lake is relatively flat, requiring no cutting and filling.
There are few trees required to be cut and removed due to the sparse tree population along this route, avoiding clearing a major swath through mature forests along Traverse Lake Road. This route would be very similar to the Dune Climb to Glen Haven portion of the trail currently under construction.
It utilizes facilities and parking in existence at the end of two county roads. This is a huge advantage to the routing the trail along the Lake.
It follows historical roads, uses Lake Michigan drive, and utilizes an existing gravel road (Juniper Lane) which requires minimal preparation for trail construction.
Construction costs are significantly less than the construction required along M-22 and Traverse Lake Road. Trail construction costs would be similar to those currently experienced from the Dune Climb to Glen Haven. The current Traverse Lake Road route will accrue substantial construction costs with wetland crossings, creek crossing, forest clearing, major dune excavation, and cutting and filling of hills and valleys north of Bufka farm.
The trail route still maintains the contiguous undisturbed habitat within the proposed wilderness area, with the trail being located on the peripheral edge of the core area. It leaves intact one of the most significant wildlife habitats and travel corridors which includes the cedar wetlands south of Bufka farm and north of Traverse Lake Road and also includes the hills to the west. This is one of the prime hunting areas in the Lakeshore, which will be dissected by the current trail route from Traverse Lake Road to the Bufka Farm.
It maintains the natural beauty of M-22 and Traverse Lake Road. It also avoids the negative impact of trail traffic (350,000-400,000 trail users) on private property owners and local residents. It also avoids any potential safety concerns of running a trail along Traverse Lake Road.
Since the route along the Lake would be similar to the Dune Climb to Glen Haven portion, the assessment of environmental impact would be similar to those identified in constructing the current trail for that portion. The assessment scoring would certainly be significantly less than an accurate assessment being done for the proposed Traverse Lake Road route. It would be aesthetically more appealing, avoiding significant public opposition to the impacts of the proposed Traverse Lake Road route.