"Communities build trails and trails build communities."

-Randy Knapp, President, Michigan's EDGE Mountain Bike Association




Objective 1: Bolster physical activity opportunities

Increased access to trails and affordable recreation will help community youth and adults control weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, build strength and endurance, and help prevent depression. While health care facility-based screening and prevention for acute health issues  in the Muskegon region rank in the upper third throughout Michigan, the levels obesity and aerobic/leisure time activity rank in the lowest quarter of the State (2013-2015 Michigan BRFSS Regional and Local Health Department Estimates, 2016). Muskegon County is ranked the unhealthiest county in the state.

There is a significant difference between obese and healthy weight MI adults for all chronic health conditions such as pre-diabetes, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (Overweight and Obesity in Michigan: Surveillance Report Update, 2014). There is scientific evidence that supports providing convenient access to places for physical activity, such as trails, increases the level of physical activity in a community. In the long-term, increased physical activity will decrease adult and child obesity rates and other community-wide health indicators.


Objective 2: Increase opportunities to connect to nature

Increased access to nature has been tied to decreased stress levels, higher attention span, and increased self-esteem. The Muskegon region has the second highest depression rate in the State (2013-2015 Michigan BRFSS Economic Development Collaborative Region). Connection to nature increases the social/emotional and physical well-being of individuals by providing a sense of place, which furthers community quality of life.

Objective 3: Empower youth and adults to develop lifelong healthy habits

Seven to nine hours of screen time per day for the average American kid does not leave much time for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended 60 minutes a day of outside play. More than 15% of Michigan high school students are overweight or obese and less than 20% of Muskegon region adults engage in 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, the third lowest ranked region in the State. Many in the health community have begun promoting trails as one answer to the obesity crisis, as well as health and behavior problems can lead have lifelong consequences. Muskegon County kids and adults alike need to be engaged in fun, physical activity. Trail use is a self-paced activity rather than a competition or side-by-side gym-based fitness, both of which many overweight adults find intimidating. Adventure sports like mountain biking have an undeniable power to stimulate young people and bring out their desire for challenge and excitement. This initial ease of access, proficiency development, and excitement is key to building the foundation of healthy, long-term physical activity habits.

Objective 4: Improved community economic vitality

Muskegon is experiencing modest employment gains in manufacturing and health services sectors, but employment gains in other sectors are constrained by a lack of quality work force. Only 16% of 25-34 year olds in Muskegon have obtained bachelor’s degrees, a percentage that lags significantly behind other regions in Michigan and the greater US by an even larger margin. While this is a conundrum that stifles community sustainability and vitality in many medium sized towns, most of these locations do not have the potential quality of life assets of the many lakes and outdoor activities that younger professionals desire. Muskegon, by comparison, can take advantage of these natural assets to create the draw needed to attract and retain these professionals for longer durations.

Objective 5: Increase sense of place and community pride

A high quality trail system is a low-cost investment compared to most other capital expenditures made for marketing an area. Nationwide, trails are one of the most highly valued and desired community resources, regularly ranking ahead of swimming, golf, and ball field facilities which also have much higher capital and maintenance costs. Muskegon County does not currently host a single natural surface trail system that provides a four-season outdoor gathering place, a space for events, and an outlet for showcasing the outdoors that is central to the Muskegon brand.