The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans to include water trails in the state's trail program.
Water trails are an intriguing way to spend some time outdoors, and the Michigan DNR is doing their part to bring attention to them.
"If they (paddlers or boaters) are reading about a water trail, they should know what to expect in terms of access and facilities along the trail and what skill-level is needed for each trail segment, be it along a river, inland lake or one of the Great Lakes," said Emily Meyerson, the DNR Parks and Recreation Division's northern Lower Peninsula trails coordinator, who is working on the policy.
The DNR is active with trails for hikers and bikers, off-road vehicle riders, snowmobilers and equestrians--but not water trails.
Some of the state's existing water trails are overseen by other entities, but the DNR says other trails can be developed.
When the new policy is developed, the DNR says it will help provide some consistency to user expectations of water trails in the state.
Developing a state system of water trails part of Michigan's Water Strategy. The 30-year plan has five goals, including the trails system, to protect, manage, and enhance the state's water resources for current and future generations.
The Land Information Access Association (LIAA), a 25-year-old nonprofit community development organization, is helping to lead the charge on the trails.
The DNR joined with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and LIAA to sponsor a state conference. The conference is scheduled for Sept. 15 in Traverse City.
At this time, the department is gathering feedback on its water trails policy.
"Our waterways have been used historically for both transportation and recreation," Meyerson says. "They're looked at by the public as places to recreate, for paddling, fishing or just being outdoors. There is a lot of interest in water trails all over the state.
"After the plan is completed, we will explore strategies to not only partner with multiple jurisdictions but seek a stable funding source for the development of water trails across Michigan."