Last winter the Cadillac Pathway (trail map - PDF) was one of only five groomed public cross country ski trails in the entire state of Michigan. A gem for local skiers and a huge tourism attraction for the area, local media has documented on several occasions what a great resource the Pathway is for the local tourism economy. The fact that the trail is the southernmost groomed state pathway in the state does nothing but add to its allure for downstate and out-of-state skiers. That’s why, when word came on October 24 that funds to groom the trail would not be available this year it was crushing news indeed.
A Grand Rapids Press article by Howard Meyerson sounded the alarm: “State officials said there is no money to maintain 60 non-motorized pathways on 4.9 million acres of state forest land,” stated the article. Lynn Boyd, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest, Mineral and Fire Management division, was quoted as saying: “We’re going to have to go in a different direction. We had another cut in general fund. They took $300,000 out of the forest recreation budget. We’re down to $240,000 for the program.” Some of that money covered cross country trail grooming.
Meyerson noted that there is hope for future funding via the new Recreation Passport Program. “Michigan residents (will be able to) purchase a Passport when they get their license plate renewals. The $10 annual fee allows entry into all of Michigan’s state parks and boat launches. The money will fund state parks, state forest recreation, state recreation areas and provide grants to local governments for parks and trails.” That money will not be available until 2012, however, so that means cross country ski trails across the state, and the Cadillac Pathway locally, will not have their trails groomed or parking lots plowed this winter.
For the past few years the Pathway has been groomed by volunteers under the auspices of the DNRE. However, due to statewide guidelines regarding the types of projects for which volunteers can be utilized, having the Pathway groomed by volunteers this winter is not an option.
What to do? Well, there is a way out of this situation. All it requires is a little community spirit by locals -- skiers and/or businesses that enjoy and benefit from the Pathway.
The members of the volunteer trail grooming crew looked into the situation. With input from the DNRE it was determined that it would cost about $1000 in order for the DNRE to groom the Pathway, plow the parking lot, and maintain the lavatory (at the Clam River trailhead) for the winter. A fund could be set up, administered by the local DNRE office in conjunction with local volunteers, and that money would specifically be used ONLY for the Cadillac Pathway. The only sticking point would be that the money would have to be in place before any grooming/plowing could take place.
Something to know at this point in the discussion is that a one-day trail pass at a private ski touring center averages around $15 right now in Michigan (with some centers charging $20 and higher). The centers closest to Cadillac are 45 miles away.
Having the “free” Cadillac Pathway just minutes from downtown Cadillac is a tremendous asset for locals and visitors. Every tourism business and association should be shouting this from the rooftops. It’s a selling point virtually no other town south of M-72 has.
Every member of the volunteer trail grooming crew will tell you that they’ve been stopped hundreds (if not thousands) of times over the years by skiers who thanked them for their efforts and almost always said, “If I can do anything to help out or if I can chip in toward the grooming just let me know.” Well, folks, now’s the time to step up. All it will take is $1000 to make the Cadillac Pathway fully operational this winter. If you ski the Pathway even once a year, think of all the trail pass money you’ve saved.
So here’s the deal. We’re proposing that local “Friends of the Pathway” chip in to save the Pathway this winter. At this point all we’re asking is that you make a pledge if you’re so inclined. You can send your pledge (your name and the amount you’re willing to donate) to email@example.com. No money will change hands until we have $1000 in pledges. If enough pledges accumulate so that the $1000 goal is reached, at that point an e-mail will be sent out to all participants with instructions on where to send their donations. (Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose.)
If the $1000 mark is not reached (in pledges) then no one will be out anything. No grooming will take place and the parking lot will not be plowed, but we won’t be any worse off than we are now. If more than that amount is collected, we’ll be assured of a fully functional Pathway regardless of how much snow falls. Plus, any surplus will go to maintain the lavatory at the Clam River trailhead during the summer for hikers and mountain bikers, another good thing.
Local skiers, we can do this. Let’s support our community, Cadillac’s winter tourism businesses and do ourselves a favor in the bargain – win, win, win. If just 67 skiers each chip in the equivalent of a one-day ($15) trail pass (or more), we’ll have enough money for grooming this winter. Now is the time for all good cross country skiers to come to the aid of their Pathway. Send your pledges to firstname.lastname@example.org today.