The proposed Bay to Bay Backpack and Kayak Trail project is in the early stage of an Environmental Assessment. Initial Public Scoping was completed between August 15 and October 15, 2014. About 110 comments were received from the public during this time. These comments will help the Park staff and volunteers shape the proposed trail concept. The planning process will progress through the winter and spring, so by summer of 2015 the project team will be ready to share potential plan alternatives at public meetings.
The proposed trail would parallel the mainland shoreline within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore boundaries from Platte Bay to Good Harbor Bay. On land, this trail would make use of a few active beach in areas not near private property or existing disturbed areas and corridors to the extent possible. The trail would provide backpackers as well as Lake Michigan kayakers and canoeists a way to do multiple day trips in the National Lakeshore.
Some additional primitive back-country campgrounds might need to be built to provide for overnight camping along the way. The White Pine back-country campground is the only existing camping area that serves as an example of the type of facilities that would be provided. Most of the campgrounds would be close enough to the Lake Michigan shore that kayakers would be able to carry their equipment from their boats to the campground. Some sign or post would be visible from Lake Michigan so kayakers will know where to land to access the campgrounds. Three to five new campgrounds are anticipated to be constructed for this project. A few of the proposed campgrounds might be inland and just for backpackers.
A hiking trail would be developed to allow backpackers to do multi-day backpacking trips using the same campgrounds that would be used by paddlers, so mixed groups of paddlers and backpackers can start at the same point and meet for camping in the evening. Visitor maps would show the kayak launch sites, hiking trail, campgrounds, and access points to the trail from existing roads.
The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes worked in cooperation with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the National Park System Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance group, and the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources to provide initial concepts and background data for this proposed trail. The team studied alternative routes and campground sites in preparation for the Environmental Assessment. Fundraising and grant-writing will be required to develop this trail. This work began in 2013.
A team of five students from the U of M School of Natural Resources, working on their Masters Degree spent the summer at Sleeping Bear Dunes assessing each Lake Michigan access point as possible kayak or canoe launch points and take-outs. This data will be included in the Lake Michigan Water Trail database. They also evaluated a variety of potential campground sites and hiking trail routes.
The team prepared online surveys to collect user preferences for paddlers, backpackers and hikers to aid in the development of possible routes and designs. A variety of options for campground design and location were included in data for the Environmental Assessment. The team also developed concepts for signage and informational brochures and web sites for the proposed trail.
Trailheads, alternate trail routes, launch sites, and possible campgrounds have been entered into the Park’s GIS system and will be used as input for the Environmental Assessment.
If you are interested in being involved in this project or providing funding, please contact Kerry Kelly.