By: Carin Tunney & Consumers Energy Hydro Reporter Staff

Two of the state’s newest nonmotorized trails are expanding.

Michigan’s Dragon Trail at Hardy Dam and the Iosco Exploration Trail are open year-round for hiking, biking, birding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Both have projects planned for 2022 that will bring even more exploring for Michigan’s nature lovers.

The Dragon Trail, Newaygo and Mecosta Counties

The Dragon Trail runs through Mecosta and Newaygo counties. A Consumers Energy Foundation grant helped fund the project, which includes Consumers Energy-owned land near Hardy Dam.

About 22 miles of the 47-mile Dragon Trail are complete. Work this year will add another nine miles to the trail.

Named for its dragon-like shape, the trail encircles Hardy Pond, crosses Hardy Dam and winds through a marina, campgrounds and day-use parks on Consumers Energy-owned land. The campgrounds and parks include parking and trailheads.

The route features a natural surface, boardwalks made of red cedar and white oak, 20 fiberglass bridges and 13 scenic overlooks. One of the trail’s 11 sections will exceed Americans with Disabilities Act standards, making it accessible to nature lovers of all abilities.

Newaygo County worked with trail developer Applied Trails Research, to strategically place bridges, water crossings, scenic overlooks and trailheads where wildlife would continue to thrive.

Martin Hall, Trail Coordinator for the 400-member West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance, leads volunteer efforts to inspect, maintain and groom the Dragon Trail year-round.

“There was nothing of this caliber for mountain bikers in the Midwest,” Hall said. “I saw the potential to develop a great trail system that was valuable to bikers, residents and communities.”

The trail is funded by grants, corporate and private donations, Mecosta and Newaygo counties, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and foundations, including the Consumers Energy Foundation. The final completion date for the trail depends on funding.

Iosco Exploration Trail, Iosco County

Meander through the Huron-Manistee National Forest and alongside the AuSable River this summer on the Iosco Exploration Trial.

There are multiple trailheads and scenic stops, including Foote Site Park, Foote Pond and Au Sable River scenic overlooks.

Phases 1 and 2 in Hale at Loon Lake Park and Oscoda are complete. The paved phase 3 of the trail will cover about five miles and is scheduled to be complete later this year.

Phase 3 winds through Old Orchard Park Campground on the shores of Foote Pond, on property owned by Consumers Energy and leased to Oscoda Township.

“Moving ahead with Phase 3 of the Iosco Exploration Trail is a wonderful step in the continued plan of building this amazing new trail through Iosco County,” said board secretary for the trail, Roberta Smith. “Connecting communities through trails will provide an economic boost to small businesses, a safe place to traverse from one area to the next and provide the local community, tourists and visitors, an outlet for recreation and improved personal well-being.”

When all eight phases are complete, the trail will stretch 44 miles and include stops at Lumberman’s Monument, Largo Springs Foote Site Park, Foote Pond and Au Sable River scenic overlooks.

The trail is part of the Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail initiative, which would connect communities throughout Michigan with a trail system that travels from Detroit to Ironwood on the west side of the Upper Peninsula.

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