View Full Version : Recap: 2014 Michigan Recreation & Parks Association (MRPA) Statewide Trails Summit

January 24th, 2014, 02:28 PM
GLFWDA had the opportunity to send some representatives to the 2014 Michigan Recreation & Parks Association Statewide Trails Summit. Below is a recap of what they heard and discussed throughout the summit:

Rob Lawrence representing Great Lakes Four Wheel Drive Association (GLFWDA) & Mike Olmstead, GLFWDA member, representing Jeep Jamboree USA & Drummond Island Off Road Club, attended the 2014 MRPA Statewide Trails Summit on January 21, 2014.

The purpose of the conference was to identify priorities, actions, and collaborative priorities, by trail user type for the next five years. It’s important to note that this is a conference on the Michigan Comprehensive Trail Plan, and that ‘summer motorized sports’ (wheeled, i.e, ATVs, full size OHVs, etc.) are only a small part of this trails inventory and user groups. However, it was encouraging to see that many of the trail stake holders had almost exactly the same issues and concerns with the system and its management as GLFWDA members.

Anita Twardesky of MRPA opened the conference. Jim Radabaugh followed with addition opening remarks that addressed the implementation phase of the Michigan Comprehensive Trail Plan. Mr. Radabaugh also discussed trail opportunities and partnerships that exist within the state, spoke of the 1,000 mile ‘Governors Trail’ that will run from Belle Isle in Detroit to the Wisconsin border in the UP, and that Michigan leads the nation in “Rails to Trails”.

Donna Stine, DNR Policy Coordinator, then discussed the State Trails Implementation Plan of the Michigan Comprehensive Trail Plan at length.

After the conference’s opening comments the conference moved on to four ‘break out’ sessions: Summer Non-Motorized Trails, Winter Non-Motorized Trails, Winter Motorized Trails, and Water Trails.

Mike Olmstead participated in the “Summer Non-Motorized Trails” session (since there was no “Summer Motorized Trails” session!) while Rob Lawrence participated in the “Winter Motorized Trails” breakout session.

At the “Summer Non-Motorized Trails” session Mike Olmstead learned that many of the same concerns and issues that exist between motorized and other parties exist among the non-motorized trail community, i.e., conflicts exist between equestrian, cycling, and hikers. During this break out Mike Olmstead did have an opportunity to share some of the concerns of the motorized trails users.

What was most interesting was that ALL users have the same concerns: conflicts with other user groups, signage, trail maintenance, and most notably, issues with the DNR itself, most prominently, with forestry and the way logging operations affect all of our trail systems.

Rob Lawrence attended the “Winter Motorized Trails” break out session, and that session morphed into a “Motorized Trails” Breakout session. The group during this breakout session consisted mostly of snowmobile and ORV representatives but there were also a few representatives from communities throughout the state. Although all the motorized users basically came to consensus on the issues discussed it was interesting to hear the feedback from the community representatives that were there. One of the things that they want help on is bringing more ORV and snowmobile traffic to their towns and the good thing that they recognized was the need for more interesting trails that would attract those user groups.

The group was asked to name the top issues and priorities based on each user group and Rob Lawrence had an opportunity to voice the concerns of the full-size four wheel drive community. Overall the group came to a general consensus that much issues are already in the state trail plan but a health check was needed to monitor the DNR’s progress. Additionally all groups agreed that the issue is not adding just more trails, but making more interesting/challenging trails to increase user satisfaction.

The afternoon session kicked off with a brief “panel” discussion (which in reality was three brief presentations). Bill Mason, Michigan Snow Mobile Assn. shared some excellent information and best practices how to deal successfully with legislation and administrative bodies. Bill Munson of Petoskey Parks & Rec shared how to make multi-jurisdictional trails work, and finally Diane Russell, an expert in coalitions and networks, discussed how to effectively develop a successful collaborative process that benefits all stake holders.

At the end of the ‘panel discussion’ Mike Olmstead attended the “Conflict Resolution” breakout session while Rob Lawrence attended the “Maintenance” session.

The conflict resolution breakout session was tailored towards trails conflict resolution, whether it is between user groups and trail managers/land owners or among different user groups. “Real life“ examples were used to demonstrate effective tactics when differences of opinion occur. In addition, tangible techniques were shared with the group in the breakout session. The consensus was that there in not one, single, technique that works, but rather, the specific situation dictates how to approach the issue.

At the maintenance breakout session that Rob Lawrence attended the audience broke up into smaller groups to discuss how the various groups do maintenance today and find examples of systems that work well. In Rob Lawrence’s group he was the only one representing any motorized trail where the rest of the group made up representatives from rail trail and hiking trail systems. The group found that the ORV trail maintenance system was a good example based on the fact that users paid into the system to maintain it and there were standards defining on maintenance would be performed, when it had to be performed by and the documentation process to claim the maintenance.

Towards the end of the maintenance session, Keith Creagh, who is the director of the DNR, came in to discuss maintenance issues with the group. Rob Lawrence had the opportunity to share the ORV maintenance program with Keith and the rest of the audience and Keith highlighted both the good and bad parts about the program. Keith Creagh further commented about how “the snowmobile groups raised fees and figured it out, and the ORV groups increased fees and they are going to figure it out too”. His reference was to adding more trail miles to the system while keeping them sustainable. Keith also pointed out for example that the biggest cost is not in acquiring the land for trails but for putting the trails in and keeping up with the maintenance.

Donna Stine wrapped up the conference by observing the biggest issues facing the Michigan trails are:
- Signage
- Marketing
- Conflict of Use
- Maintenance
- And that the varied user groups need to stay in communication & proximity; i.e., ‘connect the dots’.

Division Chief Ron Olson closed the conference remarking that “…we (the DNR) hear you…”, and further indicated that “…if everything was in order we wouldn’t be at this conference!”. All the DNR people at the conference conveyed a deep sincerity in their commitment to the trails programs.

Both Mike Olmstead and Rob Lawrence made contacts with a number of people which will strengthen and reinforce our relationships with organizations and individuals which will be mutually beneficial to all concerned!

Finally, a big “Thank You” to the Michigan Recreation & Parks Association and the Grand Traverse Resort for hosting this conference!

January 25th, 2014, 08:51 AM
Thank You for your time and this informative update.

January 25th, 2014, 10:24 AM
Ditto...good report.

1. Are there more details about the 1K Gov. Trail.


January 25th, 2014, 08:44 PM
Ditto...good report.

1. Are there more details about the 1K Gov. Trail.


Keith Creagh (Director of DNR) made mention that sounded like all the land that needed to be acquired has been done, but trails still need to be built. At this time it is a bike/hike only trail. Additionally someone made note during the conference that there was a guy last year who hiked the "proposed" trail, taking him 3 months.

January 25th, 2014, 09:17 PM
Sounds interesting...I assume they will give you a lift at the bridge. Thanks for the report.

January 25th, 2014, 10:17 PM
Yes, that has been the plan. I heard that there was push back from the hiking community as they don't want to say that they had to take a shuttle for 5 miles... of course the response that I heard was that "you can do that today, just one day a year" referring to the memorial day bridge walk.

January 26th, 2014, 07:10 PM
Thanks Rob and Mike for attending to represent GLFWDA and our Full size user community at this conference and for providing this great information as well. Definitely let us know when more opportunities like this come up where members could go and have their voices heard...

January 27th, 2014, 01:43 PM
Thanks to both of you for taking the time out of your schedule to attend on behalf of the Association. Great to see both DNR Director Creagh and Parks & Rec chief Olson place enough priority on the trails in MI to personally attend the conference.

January 30th, 2014, 11:12 PM
Great report. Kudos to the two of you.

December 1st, 2014, 02:19 PM
Thank you for your time you put into this.