scious of the marketing and presentation
of the whole concept. I was surprised how
much response we got, how many people
stepped up. Sometimes you put out
policy ideas and they either go over like
a lead balloon and nothing happens, or
people start cheering and get all excited.
I thought there would be good support
for the cross-state trail, but as it turned
out the response from the public was just
The great thing about the cross-state
trail is I’ve had several people come up to
me and say they want to be the first per-
son to do the whole thing. As soon as it’s
ready, they’re going to start walking!
How will you pay for it?
We’ve got a number of resources avail-
able. We’ve got the [Michigan] Natural
Resources Trust Fund to do some of that,
and we have other resources through the
other parks and recreation funds at the
state level. There are also federal resources
available that we have administered. I
don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying
about the money. I view it as, “We have
the resource pots available; let’s figure out
what are the key pieces of trail to add.”
The maintenance question is a big
deal to me. I think we can do a better job
of maintaining the trails. I think we’ve
done a lot of good work, and I want to
give credit to the Michigan Department
of Natural Resources [DNR]—and the
Michigan Department of Transportation
in particular—for bringing a lot of the
different constituencies together.
When you say “trails,” that means a
lot of different things to a lot of different
people, and we have people who use the
trails for everything from walking to ski-
ing to snowmobiling to horse riding. So
we sometimes have competing perspec-
tives on what the priorities are and how
they should be implemented. I think
we’ve worked really hard on having venues
where we get individuals together to talk
about accomplishing things cooperatively
rather than competing for finite resources.
uses royalties from state-owned
mineral rights to acquire land for
resource protection and public
Have you thought about eventually
connecting the cross-state trail to
Yes, I’d love to do that. Canadians are our
partners and friends. There’s a bridge I’ve
been pretty keen on getting done, so that
would tie well into the bridge project,
wouldn’t it? It’d be just another kind of
bridge—a bridge to the trail network.
Michigan has been quick to
always claim its portion of TA or
ously Transportation Enhancements]
funding. How does this kind of
investment play a role in helping
revitalize Michigan cities?
We’ve been quick to claim TA funds
because I think they demonstrate a good
return on investment. I don’t believe in
taking federal money for anything if you
can’t show that it has a good return. It’s not
just about spending money. It’s about the
fact that the citizens of Michigan are my
customers, and I want to give them great
customer service.
This gets back to the quality-of-life
point, which applies to our urban areas as
well. That was part of the message of the
cross-state trail concept—it includes metro
Detroit, and it would potentially involve
other cities as well as it went north.
It’s really about exposing people to all
that the state has to offer. We ran a great
program this last year, a youth initiative,
where we got a lot of young people in met-
ro Detroit involved in conservation issues.
The Michigan DNR administered the pro-
gram, and it was interesting to see that a lot
of these kids had never been to a state park.
Some didn’t know what a state park was.
One of these young people I met after the
program had decided that he now wanted
to make that his career, going into some
kind of forestry work or outdoor work.
The Globe building in downtown
Detroit will be a good hub to encourage
more interaction between the outdoors and
the urban environment, and to let people
know they’re not mutually exclusive.
I believe it’s a symbiotic relationship,
just like the economy and the environ-
ment. By leveraging the assets we have
across the state, you can have a great urban
environment and you can provide great
recreational opportunities.
outdoor recreation. RTC thinks
it’s a concept that other states can
learn from. I understand some
recent changes to the trust fund
will make more dollars available
for trails.
The trust fund is a great asset, and that’s
something we need to thank our predeces-
sors for putting in place. The good part
is that it’s filled up to its $500 million,
so now we have the investment earnings
available on a recurring basis in perpetuity.
That’s a nice situation to have. That money
can be used for trail improvement or to
buy land for trails. That flexibility is a plus.
Since the trust fund’s inception in
more than $168 million has
been awarded for trail-related projects
in Michigan, with two-thirds of that
amount going directly to local units of
government. Surveys have shown that the
people of Michigan have a strong public
interest in trails as outdoor recreation.
The trust fund board has responded to
that by giving a higher priority to trail-
related projects. So expect to see more
trust fund grants going for trail projects
in the future.
We are currently working on a state
land-management strategy. I think we
haven’t done the best job in terms of hav-
ing a statewide strategy that coordinates
our efforts. In some cases, to be blunt, we
were too focused on fee-simple purchase
of land, and I don’t get the point of going
out to buy land just for the purpose of
buying land. But when we can see the
broader strategy and be conscious of
what parcels and trail systems can be
connected, then that’s a positive. It helps
us do a better job of prioritizing, to tie
it back into this cross-state trail concept,
along with some other key environmental
The cross-state trail has some gaps in
it. We need to look at what alternative
methods we can use in terms of acquisi-
tions. It doesn’t have to be all fee-simple;
it could be easements and other access
rights, which allows you to leverage those
dollars even further. I have no issue with
working with a private party. They could
continue to own it, they could farm it,
they could timber it, but we have the
rights to have a trail on it that’s main-
tained appropriately.