The Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park is a Beauty to Behold
The Mike Levine Lakelands Trail Linear State Park is a popular destination for those in the area who are drawn to the outdoors. The 33-mile trail, spanning from Hamburg Township in Livingston County to Blackman Township in Jackson County, is the perfect destination to walk, bike, or expand your knowledge of Michigan's rich history.
Opened to the public in 1994, the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail has undergone recent developments which have vastly improved and popularized the destination. In 2016, Pinckney resident Mike Levine pledged 5 million dollars to design and develop the trail. Levine is an inventor and philanthropist passionate about improving and building on the beautiful trails that run through Michigan.
With the help of Levine, Michigan History Center staff and volunteers installed 11 signs throughout the path informing passersby of its rich history, dating back to the early 1800s. Trail goers can cross the Huron River to learn about the Potawatomi. This American Indian tribe settled in the area around the 1830s. Remnants of the railroad era can be discovered, dating back to the 1880s. Signs along the way teach the history of several communities dating back to the 1820s.
The Natural Resources Commission renamed the trail in 2018 from the Lakelands Trail to the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park. Given his passion and commitment, Michigan Trails announced a new annual award in Levine’s name, The Michigan Trails Mike Levine Annual Trail Volunteer of the Year Award. In 2018, critical state and local officials held a ceremony in Pinckney to celebrate Levine and his generosity.
“While so many have focused on his philanthropic efforts, and they are significant, I want to focus my thanks today for his role as a citizen steward who deeply believes in the vital role that trails play in making Michigan a better place to live, work and play,” said Bob Wilson, Executive Director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.
The Mike Levine Lakelands Trail is one of five interconnected trail routes that make up the Great Lake to Lake Trails #1. Stretching from South Haven to Port Huron, the 275-mile trail runs through Pontiac, Pinckney, Jackson, Albion, and Kalamazoo. What intrigued developers most about the Great Lake to Lake Trails #1 was that most of the interconnected trails were built on the remnants of the Michigan Air Line Railroad, which dates back to 1883.
The Michigan Air Line Railroad was one of Michigan’s first significant railroads. It spanned from Port Huron, MI, to Niles, MI. Once abandoned in 1975, several sections were acquired by the Michigan Department of Transportation or Natural Resources. The acquisition of the land resulted in the construction of a non-motorized trail.
The completion of the Great Lake to Lake Trails #1 began to take shape in 2019. In September, the Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance hosted its Inaugural Great Lake to Lake Trail Ride. The seven-day tour included a “dipping of the tires” ceremony in Lake Michigan at South Haven, six overnight stays, and one final dipping of tires in Lake Huron.
The Great Lake to Lake Trails #1 is one of America’s great destination trails. The trail passes through 9 counties, 42 townships, and 34 cities, towns, and villages.
Linear state parks, parks that are significantly longer than wide, can be found all over Michigan. With 4,020 miles of hiking trails and 2,085 miles of biking trails throughout the state, it is no challenge to find a great trail nearby. Michigan offers more than 13,400 miles of state-designated trails, ranging from hiking and biking to equestrian and snowmobiling.
There are currently 327 state-managed linear parks in Michigan, stretching from the very top of the Upper Peninsula to the very bottom of the state. Some of Michigan’s most scenic trails can be found in the state’s southeastern region. For instance, Detroit’s Iron Belle Trail extends more than 2,000 miles from Belle Isle in Detroit to the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula. The trail is only 71% complete, but upon completion will become the longest designated state trail in the United States.
The history and beauty of the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail continue to draw in trail goers from all over the state. With the support and generosity of people like Levine, Michigan continues solidifying its reputation as the Trails State.
Michigan.gov History Center, https://www.michigan.gov/mhc/heritage-trails/lakelands-trail-state-park
Michigan Department of Natural Resources https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/MIDNR/bulletins/1f3c979
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, https://www2.dnr.state.mi.us/parksandtrails/#list
Michigan Trails Magazine, https://mitrails.org/great-lake-to-lake-trail-route-1-west.php
Great Lakes Explorer, https://greatlakesexplorer.com/mike-levine-lakelands-trail