Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

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Supersized

763-acre Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area is on a roll

Mike Terrell - November 11th, 2013  

Glacial Hills Natural Area has come of age and is currently providing some of the best mountain biking and hiking trails in Northern Michigan, just a mile northwest of Bellaire in Antrim County. There are currently around 20 miles of trail and more in the planning stages. It’s been eight years in the making.

“We’ve been working hard at this all summer. We opened the first loop a couple of falls ago, added around 10 more miles by early this summer, and continuing to add more trails as fast as we can. By next year we hope to be up over 30-some miles of trails,” says Brad Gerlach, stewardship coordinator for Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

The Land Conservancy helped broker the deal, allowing Antrim County and Forest Home Township to acquire 345 acres of property. It brought together three separate parcels owned by the county, township and DNR to create the 763-acre public-owned block, aka Glacial Hills Natural Area.

Although owned by three separate governmental units, Glacial Hills shares a combined trail system that’s excellent for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hunting. The process started eight years ago, but has really gained momentum in just the last couple of years.

GETTING THERE

There are currently three trailheads with parking areas north of Bellaire. The west end entrance is off Eckhardt Rd, the middle trailhead is on Vandermark Road, and the east side trailhead is on Orchard Hill Road. You can access the Orchard Hill entrance biking from downtown.

Acceptance of the new trails has been fantastic, Gerlach says.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of use this summer by not only locals, but people coming from downstate who have heard of the project. And mountain bikers as well as hikers have had nothing but praise for the new trails. With the amount of trail system we will have here in the near future, we expect this to become a Midwest destination for mountain biking. I believe it has that potential.”

Shanty Creek is also jumping on board, according to marketing director Lindsey Southwell.

“Next summer we plan on promoting the mountain biking potential and running shuttles for bikers downtown and the trailhead,” she recently told me. “The area hasn’t had this kind of excitement since the 1990s when NORBA held a big race at the resort each summer and named the first American Olympic mountain bike team here in 1996.”

The Olympics, held in Atlanta that summer, was the first one where mountain bike racing became an official event.

SMOOTH RIDE

One of the things that has made the new trail system so popular is that they have a nice, easy flow. They are wide and smooth with no surprises and few rough areas.

“We realized after making the Dry Hill mountain bike trails at Arcadia Dunes Natural Area that they were too hard for many mountain bikers and especially families,” Gerlach says of another trail system in Manistee County. “We started to do the same thing here, with the first set of trails built from the Eckhardt Road trailhead. They were too difficult for many bikers.

“We started employing different tactics with the trails built last fall and this past summer. There are no radical climbs. The trails are wide and easy flowing. We used lots of long switchback to get people up into the hills. It’s family-friendly.”

The first sets of trails were hand-cut, narrow and much steeper in nature. They now employ a mini-excavator run by volunteer help to initially cut the trail into the hillsides, then till them with a garden tractor to smooth them out. Finally, they roll the trails with a large drum holding 700 pounds of water to smooth them out.

“We may have to go back in and do a little handwork on some roots, but that’s about all that we need to do,” adds Gerlach. “It’s much faster, which has allowed adding so many more miles of trails this year.”

GLACIAL FOOTPRINT

They plan on redoing some of the trails in that first rough section and adding an easier, flatter loop. Plans also call for going back to Dry Hill to add some easier loops there in the near future.

The property is woodsy, rugged, and has great topography that allows trails to be in close proximity without being on top of each other. It’s full of tall hills, ridges and deep ravines, all courtesy of the last glacier that carved up the landscape about 10,000-some years ago; hence the name of the natural area.

Once you get back into the system it feels remote, perfect for solitude and quiet recreation. There are a couple of overlooks off the first set of trails, off Eckhardt Road. One is a distant view of Lake Bellaire. It’s a peaceful hike or ride through a beautiful, upland forest. Fall with all the hardwood covered hills is especially beautiful.

 
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