A Trifecta of Generosity and Gratitude Celebrated for Michigan Trails
To ensure the trails movement in Michigan continues to grow, it takes focus and commitment along with public/private partnerships to see it through to fruition. Detroit's DNR Outdoor Adventure Center was filled with grateful trail users at the donor recognition breakfast for Michael R. Levine, who pledged $5 million dollars to expand and improve three trails: the Lakelands Trail State Park, Great Lake to Lake Trails Route 1 and the Iron Belle Trail.
By: Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance
Mr. Levine's accomplishments in private industry make him one of the great innovators of our generation. Mr. Levine received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from New York University in 1958, and is a frequent speaker at institutions like the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University, and Florida Atlantic University. Mr. Levine shares, "I love spending time in Michigan and am fortunate enough to spend time in Ann Arbor in the summer. I raised my family here. I started working with the Friends of the Lakelands Trail group in 2004; I simply wanted a safe place to ride my bike and to make new memories with my grandchildren and extended family. Through my wonderful friend, the late Herb Amster, I was connected to Governor Snyder, and his mission to connect the disparate, local trails into a continuous route."
Governor Snyder's mission to ensure Michigan remains the #1 trails state in the nation is more than a dream; it continues to build. In 2012, he proposed the idea for the Iron Belle Trail, two trails that extend from the border of Wisconsin in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit. By 2014, he signed legislation establishing the Pure Michigan Trail Network enhancing Michigan's reputation as the Trail State, and in 2015, designated the third week in September as Michigan Trails Week. Like the Governor, Levine has a passion for trails and understands the importance of this vision for future generations, "Now, as I get older, I'm working with the DNR and the Jewish Community Center of Ann Arbor to ensure this dream comes true in my lifetime."
Today, Michigan leads the nation in trails, and to ensure the trails movement in the state continues to grow, it takes focus and commitment along with public/private partnerships like this to see it through to fruition. JJ Tighe, CEO for the Michigan Fitness Foundation, introduced the crowd to Mr. Levine by sharing a few highlights, "He is a technical leader and visionary, has more than 60 US patents and is the architect of the microprocessor. His projects have touched the lives of millions around the globe. You may have heard of some of his work – VCR programming, a programmable thermostat, water filtration systems and the desktop computer. His career spans decades and has improved the lives of countless people." This contribution will provide an abundance of opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the state's spectacular natural resources, explore nature, appreciate wildlife, experience solitude or enjoy time with family and friends.
Next, Ron Olson, Chief Parks and Recreation for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, took to the podium to commemorate Mr. Levine and revealed the Lakelands Trail State Park will be renamed the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park and stated, "Locally, his contributions to the citizens of the State of Michigan are exemplary and his passion for trails is second-to-none. To commemorate one of his dearest friends, the future trailhead on Hawkins Road will be named in honor of his colleague Herb Amster, a well-respected, innovative leader in the business and nonprofit communities in southeast Michigan."
Fresh off the Detroit RiverWalk from running the Auto Show 5K was Lt. Governor Brian Calley who shared, "We are here today to recognize a tireless advocate of improving Michigan's trails. Avid trail user Michael Levine, who is 78 years old, wants to see our trail system improved so he can ride the Great Lake to Lake Route, which is 280 miles, when he's 80 years old." This comment was welcomed by the crowd with enthusiastic applause. Calley continued, "I am proud to participate in this ceremony, honoring Michael with a certificate of recognition for his commitment from Governor Snyder and myself; your contribution will impact Michigan trails for generations."
The 280-mile route Levine intends to ride is known as the Great Lake-To-Lake Trails Route 1, extending from Port Huron to South Haven. A portion of his pledge will help to fill the gaps and fund other improvements along this southern route that connects Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. Just over a decade ago, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, in collaboration with many trails groups, government agencies and stakeholders, launched Connecting Michigan: A Statewide Trailways Vision and Action Plan. This plan was drafted to increase communications, cooperation, and resource sharing to encourage improved regional and state collaboration to develop a quality statewide networked system of trailways and greenways. Through this project, the concept for a long distance trailway from Port Huron to South Haven was introduced. From this, what was known then as the Michigan Airline Trail developed into the Great Lake to Lake Trails Network. Diane Bancroft, chair of Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, stated, "Through his vision, tenacity, leadership, and generous financial support, Mr. Levine has moved our dream of an interconnected trail system in Michigan much closer to a reality. On behalf of Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, we are extremely grateful to Mr. Levine for partnering with us to accomplish this goal of Connecting Michigan."
Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance executive director Nancy Krupiarz noted Mr. Levine also awarded $25,000 to develop a signage program for the entire Great Lake to Lake Trail. "The signage program will utilize Battle Creek Linear Park as a template for all communities along the trail to mark their route and make information about key waypoints easily accessible to the trail user," said Krupiarz, and continued, "It's been a pleasure working with and getting know Mike Levine. The funding he has provided will make this trail a reality over the next two years. The communities and government agencies are inspired and motivated to finish their pieces, knowing that some of the largest gaps of the trail are being filled because of his philanthropy."
The event was hosted by the Michigan Fitness Foundation, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Over 100 people attended the event, including Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley; U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell; James J. Tighe, Michigan Fitness Foundation CEO; Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Chief; Nancy Krupiarz, Executive Director, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance; and Ann Conklin, Executive Director, Michigan Recreation and Park Association along with Michigan trails professionals, aficionados, and runners who participated in the Detroit International Auto Show 5K earlier that morning hosted by the Michigan Fitness Foundation.
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About Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance
Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is the statewide voice for non-motorized trail users, helping people build, connect and promote trails for a healthier and more prosperous Michigan. It is an affiliate of the Michigan Fitness Foundation.
Michigan Fitness Foundation
The vision of the Michigan Fitness Foundation is to cultivate a culture of health to transform the status quo, improve the health of all Michiganders and to inspire active lifestyles and healthy food choices through education, environmental change, community events and policy leadership.
About Lakelands Trail
Lakelands Trail State Park is a state park in Michigan that runs east-west from Hamburg Township to Jackson, Michigan. It is a multi-use trail converted from an abandoned railroad corridor.
About Great Lake to Lake Trails
The Great Lake to Lake Trails are five trails stretching from one Great Lake to another. Three trails in the lower peninsula and two in the upper peninsula weave across many communities and tourism attractions along the way.
About Iron Belle Trail
The Iron Belle Trail is a set of two trails that will span the state of Michigan. The two trails, one for hiking and one for biking, will go between Detroit's Belle Isle State Park and Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula.
Mary McGuire Slevin
Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance