| 2 min read | by Doug Marrin |

Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam: A unique trail on an international scale is in development

A new trail in western Michigan that developers believe could become a national attraction is set to break ground this year. The 47-mile trail, dubbed “The Dragon” loops around a dam-formed body of water formed by the Hardy Dam in Newaygo and Mecosta counties.

“There are other trails that are this long, but very few are circular, fewer go around a body of water and none of them that we could find go around a body of water that’s undeveloped,” said Ryan Coffey Hoag, a land use educator at Michigan State University Extension who’s involved in the project.

The 2-foot-wide non-paved trail will pass through woods, meadows, 6 campgrouns, 8 boat launches and include 13 scenic overlooks, 20 bridges, and pass over the top of the Hardy Dam.

“It became really obvious really quickly that this wasn’t a local trail; this was going to be an attraction that would bring people into the region,” Hoag said. “This is about economic development.”

The dammed portion of the Muskegon River that the trail will encircle has the shape of a dragon giving the trail its name.

The trail

The Dragon trail is a non-motorized, multi-use, natural surface trail. It is designed as a large scale loop system, a bold and unique endeavor which will include:

  • A dramatic and challenging 47.5 mile mountain biking and pedestrian adventure loop trail designed, engineered and endorsed by the prestigious International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).
  • The Dragon will be one of the largest loop trails of its kind anywhere in the world. It will be managed by the Mecosta and Newaygo county parks boards and maintained through revenues and fees generated from the trail.
  • The proposed trail will be located exclusively on land owned by Consumers Energy and is virtually unspoiled with stunning water views, challenging valleys and 23 proposed bridges along the trail, making it unique among all trail systems in North America.
  • This professionally engineered, constructed, maintained and managed trail is expected to be completed in 2022 pending Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval.
  • Provides a regional economic engine, which will create several dozen new jobs.
  • Is expected to become a significant stage for adventure sports competitions.
  • Will connect to the Edge Pathway System and the North Country Trail, with a planned connection to the White Pine Trail State Park.

The trail and its bridges, overlooks, signage and kiosks have an estimated price tag of more than $3 million and is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors annually.

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