Sunrise Coastal Trail to connect Alpena, Oscoda proposed

News Photo by Crystal Nelson The North Eastern State Trail trailhead, connecting a non-motorized trail from Alpena to Cheboygan, is seen on Woodward Avenue, just past the Northern Lights Arena. Plans are in the works for a similar trail that would provide a missing trail connection from Alpena to Oscoda.

ALPENA — Plans for the Sunrise Coastal Trail, a proposed non-motorized trail to connect Alpena to Oscoda, are once again in the works.

The proposed trail would connect the North Eastern State Trail, with a trailhead on Woodward Avenue in Alpena, and the Iron Belle Trail, located to the south in AuSable Township in Iosco County.

The Northeast Michigan Council of Governments recently received a $15,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s Coastal Zone Management Program that will allow the organization to develop a plan for the optimal route for the proposed trail, according to Steve Schnell, community and economic development planner with NEMCOG. Schnell said NEMCOG will provide a $15,000 match in kind.

“What the grant is funding is a plan to find the optimal route, the route that all communities along that route prefer to hit all the destinations, like the state parks and any kind of view sheds, areas where people would like to bicycle,” Schnell said. “So it’s to balance both the attractions along the way and also to create a route that’s most desirable for non-motorized travelers.”

Schnell said the region needs more trails in the area along the shoreline. He said a non-motorized pathway would bolster economic development opportunities for the communities located along the trail and create more opportunities for recreational activities in the region.

Similar initiatives have been tried in the past, but no trail connecting the two communities has been built.

“There was some interest in the communities, especially between Oscoda and Alpena, to see a trail to connect to the trail in Alpena, which then heads up U.S.-23 to Cheboygan,” he said. “It’s sort of the missing link. There were communities who were disappointed when the Iron Belle went west at the AuSable River.”

The trail has been on the wish list for representatives of the U.S.-23 Heritage Route Management Council for some time, according to a press release from Alcona Township Supervisor Marlena Mac Neill.

The press release also stated several segments of the trail have already been established, and the connection would enhance recreational opportunities along the heritage route, which runs from Standish to Mackinac City.

Representatives from local and regional governments, economic development groups, and members of the public attended a meeting earlier this month to discuss the Sunrise Coastal Trail project and how to move forward.

Attendees were tasked with identifying possible trail connections and destinations, inventorying the local highlights and existing bicycle routes, and discussing known safety concerns for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Schnell said the group is getting ready to release a survey that will gather more information from the public about what should be included in the proposed trail.

“We really want to get as much information as we can from people who live or do business or travel in that area,” Schnell said. “We want to find out and make sure, if there are places that people want to make sure that cyclists have a chance to visit, we want to make sure that gets on the map. That’s going to be part of the survey and then future follow-up meetings.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

For more information

For more information on the proposed Sunrise Coastal Trail, discovernortheastmichigan.org/sunrisecoasttrl.asp or by contacting Emily Meyerson via email emeyerson14@gmail.com or 231-838-1539.