A description of the
PERE MARQUETTE RAIL-TRAIL
By late summer, 2001, the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail of Mid-Michigan (PMRT) stretched from downtown Midland to the outskirts of Clare, a distance of some 30 miles, and provides many barrier-free, non-motorized recreation and transportation opportunities.
The City of Midland owns a three mile portion of the trail located within the city limits. This section was developed by the Midland Area Community Foundation. The first part of the Rail-Trail (12 feet wide with an asphalt surface) was opened to the public in mid-June of 1993, and was formally dedicated on July 17, 1993. In June of 1994, this section linked with the first 5.5 mile section of the County owned portion of the trail at Dublin Avenue. This section continued the trail northwest through Averill to the Village of Sanford. In 1995 Sanford was linked with the City of Coleman, making the Pere Marquette approximately 22 miles in length. The County section of the trail is 14 feet wide.
Since it's opening in 1993, the Pere Marquette has been used extensively by people of all ages for walking, running, bicycling and in-line skating. It has also been used for transportation to work, shopping, and recreational events. Family use has been particularly evident, as well as use by both senior citizens and youth.
In early 1998, the County of Midland transferred ownership of the 8.25 mile undeveloped portion of the trail in Isabella County to Isabella County. This transfer opened the door for development of the trail from Coleman to the City of Clare. As mentioned, this section of the trail opened in the summer of 2001.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources owns the abandoned CSX Transportation right-of-way from the west side of Clare to Baldwin. This segment is known as the Pere Marquette State Trail. While a 2.6 mile section of active line through the City of Clare separates the PMRT from this DNR acquisition, the City of Clare is working on a connector through the City. Plans envision a continuous rail-trail from Midland through Sanford, Coleman, Clare, Farwell, Evart, Reed City and on to Baldwin and perhaps even Ludington. Should the latter be possible, a link with Wisconsin via ferry service could be attained!
The current 30 mile portion of the PMRT along with future segments will form the backbone of a long distance recreation and transportation network. The current portion links the City of Midland's downtown business district and adjacent "Tridge", to Emerson Park on the Tittabawassee River, including the Historical Society's Dow Museum and Bradley House, and then travels adjacent to the campus of Northwood University and on to Dublin Avenue. The trail then moves on to Averill, an important lumbering era historical site. The "Banking Grounds", where pine logs were stored in the winter, is owned by the Midland Area Community Foundation. This site may serve as one of the future staging areas for the Rail-Trail. It will also provide picnicking and river access opportunities, and more importantly, interpret the site's rich history. Development plans have yet to be set. The Rail-Trail then continues on to Sanford where access is provided to many area attractions, including shops and restaurants, the Senior Citizens Center, the Sanford Village Park, including fishing and canoe access to the Tittabawassee River, and the Centennial Museum, featuring several restored historic buildings and railroad artifacts. Sanford Lake County Park is also nearby and easily accessible. This park features 1,100 feet of swimming beach, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a boat launch, modern restrooms, and a bathhouse. Two paved parking lots are available in Sanford adjacent to the PMRT, one with a restroom building for trail users.
From Sanford the Rail-Trail links with two more County Park and Recreation areas, and two natural areas of statewide significance: a coastal plain/wet sand prairie, and a 19 acre bog. A boardwalk into the bog offers trail users a splendid view of this unique ecosystem. One of the parks with access from the trail is the Pine Haven Recreation Area. It features 8 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country ski trails, and is approximately three miles from the Rail-Trail via local roads. In a future development phase a more direct link from the Rail-Trail is planned. With a bridge across the Big Salt River, the area could be accessed from the Rail-Trail by crossing adjacent Saginaw Road. The other park is Veterans Memorial County Park which features 180 year old White and Red Pines. These pines offer an interpretive link with the Averill "Banking Grounds". Direct, non-motorized, access from the Rail-Trail to this park has been developed.
From Sanford to Coleman, the Pere Marquette crosses three former railroad bridges which have been restored for non-motorized use. These bridges offer great views, and are trail highlights not to be missed. Also enjoy great views of adjacent farmland as you near Coleman. Two restrooms are available, one located between Sanford and North Bradley, and the other between North Bradley and Coleman.
In Coleman, the Pere Marquette has been incorporated as part of a "Town Square" concept, making it a focal point for the City. The Coleman trailhead features a parking area for trail users and a restroom building. In Coleman you can stop for food and refreshments at local establishments, browse shops in the downtown area, and generally enjoy the city. A bicycle shop is located next to the Pere Marquette.
The PRMT of Mid-Michigan provides a multitude of benefits that will only increase as development continues. An influx of regional and statewide visitors are warmly welcomed, as are the many out-of-state visitors. With the proposed linkage to the west side of the lower peninsula, the Rail-Trail's national draw will likely increase. The Rail-Trail also protects the historical integrity of the old Flint & Pere Marquette Railway, including its unique bridges. It provides environmental education opportunities, access to rivers, parks and historical areas. And, it allows its many visitors to enjoy all it offers from an unhurried non-motorized perspective, whether that be from a bicycle, wheelchair or on foot. The Pere Marquette Rail-Trail of Mid-Michigan is a very special linear park of regional, state and national significance.
For additional information on the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail of Mid-Michigan, you may contact the Midland County Parks and Recreation Department by phone at (989) 832-6874, or write to the department at 220 West Ellsworth Steet, Midland, MI 48640-5194.
For information on area attractions and accommodations, please contact the Midland County Convention and Visitors Bureau by phone, toll free, at 1-888-4-MIDLAND, by email at [email protected], or write them at 300 Rodd Street, Midland, MI 48640. You may also wish to check out their web site at midlandcvb.org.
We hope to see you on the trail soon!
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