Contractor Hired to Build Mountain Bike Trails at Palmer Woods

We’re excited to announce that we’ve hired Flowtrack Mountain Bike Trails, LLC, a professional trail-building company from the Upper Peninsula, to lead the design and construction of the new mountain bike trails coming to Palmer Woods Forest Reserve. The company was the lead contractor for the Valley Spur Trail System in Munising, among many other trails in Michigan. The new trails will be the first flow-style trails north of Grand Rapids in the Lower Peninsula. Trail building work is slated to begin in late August.

Photo by Eric Munson

“We’re looking forward to working with Flowtrack to create flow-style trails rich in features,” says Becky Hill, the Conservancy’s Natural Areas & Preserves Manager. “They have extensive experience building sustainable, durable trails in all soil types including the distinctly sandy soils we have here, and I really admire their passion and professionalism.”

Matt Belic, owner of Flowtrack, grew up in Traverse City and his passion for biking started here on the paved TART trails and city streets. Elaborating on the project, Belic explains that “the terrain at Palmer Woods Forest Reserve will lend itself well to the development of mountain bike trails. With a general mix of steep and shallow hillsides of all different lengths, and a good amount of elevation, we’ll be able to build all sorts of fun and flow. Palmer Woods Forest Reserve has similar soil and terrain features as some of our most notable past projects, which is why we are confident this will be a unique, fun, and sustainable trail system for mountain bikers of all ages.”

The new single-track mountain bike trails will be separate from the existing trails, and the first loop is expected to open to the public in late fall of 2018. The trail will be an intermediate-level loop with A & B lines, good for riders of all ages. By the end of 2019, we anticipate that Palmer Woods will offer over 6 miles of mountain biking trails and nearly 7 miles of hiking and groomed cross country ski trails for public use. When the Palmer Woods trail system is complete in 2021, it will have over 9 miles of hiking and skiing trails and over 11 miles of mountain biking trails.

Map of the planned mountain bike trails to be built during phase 1 (yellow), and the current hiking/ski trails (black).

The Leelanau Conservancy is proud to lead the way for access to mountain biking in Leelanau County with the help of our many partners. “We’re thrilled to offer Leelanau families more high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities close to home, and look forward to breaking ground next month when we begin building the first extensive mountain biking trail system in Leelanau County,” says Tom Nelson, Executive Director of the Leelanau Conservancy. “We couldn’t do it without the support of our donors, in particular the Edmond F. & Virginia B. Ball Family Foundation. Northern Michigan Mountain Biking Association (NMMBA) and Bike Leelanau have also been instrumental partners in planning for the most sustainable way to create these quality trails,” Nelson says.

When the comprehensive trail system is complete, Palmer Woods will be a four-season recreation destination for all ages and abilities of hikers, traditional cross-country skiers, skate skiers and mountain bikers. “Having the opportunity to develop new mountain bike trail systems for passionate mountain bikers, kids just getting into the sport, and people of all ages is why I do what I do,” says Belic.

Read more about the new trails and Palmer Woods Trail Expansion Project

Read Executive Director Tom Nelson’s column about the new trails

13 responses to “Contractor Hired to Build Mountain Bike Trails at Palmer Woods”

  1. Tom Sutter says:

    A very progressive and exciting initiative to add to the Palmer Woods trail system. More opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

  2. Peachy says:

    This looks like so much fun. I have been riding on the property in the past, with Dr. Palmer’s permission. People will be amazed at the beauty of the forest and ferns. Really excited about this project!

  3. Daniel Ray says:

    Better there than within SLBE – but have you considered how to contain (notoriously independent minded) bikers on your area without destructive overflow into the Park? Very little law enforcement in that area, near primitive camping, with steep erodible slopes (obviously) and I fear – just as with fat wheel beach bikes- there will be issues with social trails, native plant trauma, noise, erosion, etc. requiring greater signage and resulting in more user conflict. Let the off road bikers go to Cadillac and elsewhere – to use the existing extensive state/national forest trail system…along with the snowmobilers, motocrossers, and other noisy, smelly destructive machines. Not against mountain bikes per se – this is just the wrong place in my opinion. Thanks

    • Ryan says:

      Daniel Ray, do you regularly use any trails where mountain bikers frequently ride with other non-motorized trail users? Such a thing is possible and, in my experience over 20 years riding mountain bikes, far more harmonious than your fearmongering description of mountain bikers. I’ve seen just as many hikers using social trails, widening trails, creating braids, etc as mountain bikers.

      Also, mountain biking is neither smelly nor destructive so please don’t lump it in with powersports like motocross. That is grossly innaccurate, and to suggest mountain bikers be limited to using trails with mx bikes and snowmobiles is laughable.

    • David says:

      Bikers are a lot easier to contain than the (notoriously curmudgeon-minded) hikers and their overworked word-holes. If they spent half as much time hiking as they did spewing their destructive, misinformed opinions of other user groups, maybe they’d actually enjoy the land they have access to already.

  4. Scott says:

    Very Exciting!

  5. Courtney says:

    So excited for this! What a positive contribution to the community!

  6. Nancy Keppelman says:

    I am delighted that the bike trail will be separate from the hiking trail, and I hope bikers will stick to the bike trail (and vice versa!). I have walked on trails in SE Michigan used by bikers (with a dog on a leash) and biking is not compatible with hiking.

    • Ryan says:

      Eyes up, earbuds out, and pay attention. Completely compatible if you pay enough attention.

      • John P says:

        I agree to a point, Ryan. I’ve mt biked in Colorado for 20+ years where many of our public trails are co-used by hikers, horse riders, and bikers. Typically, we all get along well. That said, trails with seductive downhills are occasionally too tempting for some bikers, and then the collision occurs. Ouch. So, when possible, separate trails are beautiful things, particularly for us bikers who can then ride like the wind.

  7. Joan says:

    Happy to have an excellent trail closer to home than Arcadia or Glacial Hills. I drove out there this week and saw a worker already at it. Can’t wait! It would be great to have regular rides and volunteer groups for upkeep to help make things fresh and welcoming.

    • leelanau says:

      Thanks, Joan! And a volunteer group is being built, let us know if you’re interested and we can add you to the list!

  8. Keenan says:

    Such an amazing addition to the community. Growing up here, bikers were shunned by the NPS to ride in the road – an incredibly unsafe and uninspiring environment. This will be great for generations to come.

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