Keeping the silent sports community informed and self propelled.
A recurring question among nonmotorized trail advocates is how to pay for the cost of their maintenance. An increasingly prevalent idea is pay-for-play, i.e. trail fees paid by users.
While cyclists aren't necessarily averse or unfamiliar with slipping a few bucks in an envelope and dropping the envelope in a slot at a trailhead, especially before riding on county land, the requirement raises questions about access based on who can afford it.
Wisconsin requires cyclists to buy a trail pass to ride on 30-some state trails. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has long sold Nordic ski passes. Last year the Michigan DNR, in an effort to raise more maintenance revenue, started requiring campers and cyclists to buy "recreation passports" before using state campgrounds and pathways.
Michigan is also experimenting with the lifting of trail fees, most significantly on the Kal-Haven Trail, which runs the 33.5 miles between Kalamazoo and South Haven. In 2010, riders credited Van Buren County for doing "an excellent job operating the trail."
Since then the county has come to rely more on the state DNR. The county was selling daily and seasonal trail passes to cover the cost of upkeep, trash collection and policing. But now the county is billing the state directly and state park employees do much of the work.
The elimination of the fee for the Kal-Haven Trail has had an interesting effect: trail usage has more than doubled. According to a study by Michigan State University and the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, usage rose from 21,111 between March and November 2010 to 46,102 during the same period in 2011. Mlive.com reported the findings.
Paul Yauk, Land Programs Manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources parks and recreation, said the trail will continue to be free this year. He said the Michigan DNR expects approval of a grant “to continue the partnership arrangement between the state and Van Buren County Road Commission for management of the Kal-Haven Trail."