By Jennifer Heinzman
Here at the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce, we recognize the value of our trail system not only because of the health, recreation and transportation benefits but also because of the economic impact that well-maintained trails have on communities. Studies show that trails increase property values, promote tourism and strengthen surrounding businesses.
Tourism depends on area attractions. Rarely do people travel because they enjoy the car or airplane ride or because they want to stay in a particular hotel or dine at a restaurant in a different city. The desire to go to another place is usually stimulated by attractions. In Mecosta County, primary attractions are sporting events, festivals, the parks, the trail system, and the Mighty Muskegon River. The Muskegon River serves as a recreation mecca for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Canoeing, kayaking, swimming, paddle boarding, bird watching, fishing, boating, diving, and skiing are some of the activities that draw people in.
Recreation is a major economic driver and has a substantial impact on local businesses. This is one of the reasons the Chamber has committed to getting the communities in Mecosta County designated as “Trails Towns.” Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation each year, with $18.7 billion of that being spent in Michigan alone, and we want to ensure that those outdoor enthusiasts are aware of the many assets we have here in Mecosta County!
A “Trail Town” is a destination along a long-distance trail. Whether on a rail trail, towpath, water trail, or hiking trail—trail users can venture off the trail to enjoy the scenery, services, and heritage of the community with its own character and charm. It is a safe place where both residents and visitors can walk, find the goods and services they need, and easily access both trail and town by foot or vehicle. The towns have places to rest for the night and the amenities that trail users’ desire. A Trail Town is a friendly place that encourages trail users to visit and welcomes them with warm hospitality.
Any trail, long or short, land, or water, is a valuable asset to a community. It provides free recreation for people of all ages and fitness levels, and offers opportunities to study nature or local history. Studies show that the longer a trail is, the farther people will travel to visit it, the longer they will stay, and the more money they will spend. In our community you can enjoy The White Pine Trail, The Riverwalk and the Muskegon River, just to name a few of our gems. As we strive to dispel the notion that we are “Michigan’s Best Kept Secret”, we will continue to use our natural resources to entice visitors to take advantage of all Mecosta County has to offer!