LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. – Michigan has more than 13,000 miles of state-designated trails and many of them are built on abandoned railroad corridors, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Those trails are known as “rail-trails,” and Michigan has more than any other state. According to the DNR, the trails are usually long, linear trails that go through several communities.
Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park
The Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park is one of the “rail-trails” and is 34 miles long. It goes through Livingston, Ingham and Jackson counties.
The trail is named after philanthropist Mike Levine who provided the means to finish trail extensions and improvements. His support for trails also includes other segments of the Great Lake to Lake Trail Route #1.
“Mike set a goal to ride his bike across the state on this trail. Being the type of person who strives to solve problems he combined his persuasive and philanthropical traits to assist multiple communities along the route,” Nick Van Bloem, Michigan Department of Natural Resources trails specialist for southeast Michigan, said. “The Mike Levine Lakeland Trail State Park now bears his name in recognition of his longstanding efforts.”
The DNR said by following this trail, people can find stories about muck farmers growing onions and even stories of World War II German prisoners of war.
In November 2021, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Heritage Trail Program installed 11 signs to teach people about history as they walk or bike the trail. A 12th sign will be added this year once the trail is extended 3.7 miles to Blackman Township, near Jackson.
“While many areas of the trail are rural, they attract a huge variety of hikers, bikers and equestrians,” Nick Van Bloem said. “The variety of uses means it’s a great place to teach children how to ride a bike, train for a marathon, or ride your horse from your farm to the trails in Pinckney Recreation Area.”
Heritage Trail Program
A project is underway to connect trails and create a 275-mile route called the Great Lake to Lake Trail Route #1. The project includes the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail.
The Heritage Trail Program held its first Lakeland Trail community meeting for an interpretive sign project in December 2018. Josh Kaminski, then a graduate student in Eastern Michigan University’s Historic Preservation Program, worked on the project for two years to gather information from the signs.
“What I found to be most memorable was the amount of support and dedication that the community gave towards planning this,” Josh Kaminski said. “People stepped forward with excitement and were eager to share their stories. That level of care is inspiring.”
The signs at the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail share the history of the land and the stories of people who lived there.