Jan 01, 2017

With a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities, the Ann Arbor area is a paradise for adventurous travelers. Experience the wondrous, natural beauty throughout the county as the seasons change. Here are a few notable improvements you may encounter in the coming year.

Watkins Lake
Regardless of the season, Washtenaw County is the picture-perfect destination for sightseeing and outdoor recreation. With countless community parks and trails, the only challenge is deciding what to do first! The Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, alongside the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, officially dedicated Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve last fall. Watkins Lake is Michigan’s 103rd state park and the first to be managed by a county recreation agency. The trails within the park have the potential to become a non-motorized trail for biking, hiking and horseback riding. The open meadows and mature woodlands will produce breathtaking views as flowers begin to bloom and Washtenaw County is greeted with the sweet smell of spring.

DTE Energy Foundation Trail
Winter is in full swing and construction on the DTE Energy Foundation Trail is well underway; fat tire bikers and cross country skiers rejoice! This is the first winter season the Green Lake 5-mile loop will be open for explorers of Washtenaw County. This trail is well suited for beginners and advanced riders. If you’re looking for a challenge, stay tuned for the next loop, Big Kame, expected to open this spring. The 4.5-mile loop will have a unique set of characteristics and terrain catered to outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for a more challenging route. The accessible trail, Green Lake, will be groomed regularly as Washtenaw County endures another Michigan winter. By 2020, the total trail mileage will be 25 miles.

B2B Trails
Progress on the Border-to-Border Trail (B2B) will continue this year, with more than 24 miles of paved paths already accessible to the public. By teaming up with the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative (HWPI), Washtenaw County Parks hopes to expand the B2B trail and create roughly 70 miles of uninterrupted, non-motorized trail along the Huron River. The B2B trail will complete “The Loop” regional trail system, connecting Washtenaw County communities to the Lakelands Trail in Jackson and Livingston Counties. This trail will allow the public to commute, sight see and explore Washtenaw County without traveling the same route to and from your destination. The HWPI anticipates the construction of Phase 1 (4.7 miles from Werkner Road to North Territorial) of “The Loop” trail system to begin this year. Pending private funding requirements and permits, construction on the Chelsea-Dexter Connection will move forward this year as well.

Huron River Water Trail
Discover new features and user-friendly renovations along the Huron River Water Trail in the coming year. The canoe and kayak launch at Frog Island in Ypsilanti has been restored to meet the needs of locals and visitors to the area. Paddle downriver underneath mature tree canopies, past Riverside Park to Ford Lake, or make it a day-trip and venture to North Hydro Park. In addition to enhancing recreational opportunities on the Huron River, visitors can also expect to see improvements around the river. For a less immersive experience outdoors, check out the new, innovative waterfront benches at Barton Pond in Ann Arbor, created by a local artist and Michigan contractor using natural materials. Keep your eyes peeled for more improvements in local Trail Towns.

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