Dexter’s Jason Jones Appointed by Gov. Whitmer to MI Trails Advisory Council
By Doug Marrin
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has appointed Dexter resident Jason Aric Jones, a longtime advocate, and advisor for recreational trail development and stewardship, to a seat on the Michigan Trails Advisory Council.
“I've always been passionate about engaging with nature through an ‘active outdoors’ lifestyle - either on wheels, by foot, or paddling,” says Jones. “Trails of all kinds are a vehicle to allow people to experience and engage the outdoors.”
The Michigan Trails Advisory Council advises the Department of Natural Resources and the Governor on the creation, development, operation, and maintenance of motorized and non-motorized trails in the state, including snowmobile, biking, equestrian, hiking, off-road vehicle, and skiing trails.
Jones brings a mountain of experience to the position, including being a member of a sub-committee of the Michigan Trails Advisory Council—the Nonmotorized Trails Advisory Workgroup. When the seat on the Council opened up, he seemed the obvious choice.
His decades of work in trail advocacy and development in Michigan include serving as President of the Michigan Mountain Biking Association, board member of the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association, procuring a total of $70,000 from retailers Moosejaw and Walmart for sustainable improvements to local trails, and many more, not to mention the armful of awards Jones has collected over the years.
Jones is perhaps best known as the energetic mastermind behind the DTE Energy Foundation Trail network in the Waterloo Recreation Area north of Chelsea, a project he began advocating for in 1998. Jones’s tenacity paid off almost twenty years later when the first loop opened in spring 2016. The trail system has since grown to four loops spread over 22 miles, with still more in the works. The real magic of the trails is that they have been built with a sustainable surface and engineered to almost eliminate erosion—which is a passion of Jones. The DTE trail system has gained national attention for its constructive elements and is ranked as the 44th best mountain bike trails in the world by singletracks.com.
“It is important to know that, especially when it comes to natural surface singletrack trails, these trails are often built and maintained by local non-profit stewardship and friends groups,” says Jones. “These trails are most often located on public or municipal lands, but land managers often lack the resources (dollars and labor) to maintain them. It is important for folks using such trails to become involved with contributions of either volunteer labor or monetary donations to ensure these trails receive the support they deserve.”
In his position on the Council, Jones hopes to place more focus on the need for sustainable natural surface for non-motorized singletrack trails. He sees the state’s efforts to develop linear trail corridors as a way to connect communities, increase an area’s desirability, and give residents a safe way to get out and get moving. While he is a huge fan and supporter of such initiatives as the Border-to-Border Trail in Washtenaw County, Jones feels the effort can be taken further for a more profound experience.
“Many people find tremendous experiential value in natural surface singletrack trails which afford a deeper immersion with nature,” he says. “Singletrack trails are not viewed as infrastructure, but they should be.”
“There are right ways to build natural surface singletrack trails which make them both sustainable and enjoyable,” he adds. “The DTE Energy Foundation Trail network is a fantastic example of what natural surface trails can be when done right.”
Jones’ day job is CFO and COO of Gerrit J. Verburg Company. He has a degree in Financial Administration from Michigan State University. His term on the Council expires January 17, 2025.
“If we don't get out and interact with nature, we won't appreciate it,” says Jones. “If we don't appreciate it, we won't value its preservation. This is why trails are so important in our society.”
Photos courtesy of Jason Jones