If everything goes as planned, Lake Michigan kayakers could soon be enjoying their own, watery version of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. While still in the planning phase, the new “water trail” would stretch the length of the National Lakeshore, from Good Harbor Bay in Leelanau County to Platte Bay in Benzie County, and offer lake accessible camping opportunities.

During this “scooping phase” of the proposal, the NPS has extended the deadline for public comment until October 15, 2014. Find out how you can let your ideas be heard regarding alternatives (e.g., routes, amenities, operations) and any issues and concerns (e.g., impacts on the environment or public).

The idea for a water trail that spans the length of the Sleeping Bear Dunes roughly 30-mile shoreline was first introduced in the 2009 park general management plan. But until last August, the initiative was just idea.

Now, thanks to the support of Friends of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the initiative has taken the next step toward becoming a reality: a water route that would eventually connect to the Lake Michigan Water Trail and provide kayaking and hiking similar amenities such as backwoods campsites and beach-accessible kayak launches.

Review of Formal Plan to Begin Next Year

“We’re trying to put meat on the bones of this idea,” Kevin Skerl, the park’s chief of natural resources, recently told MLive’s Garrett Ellison. In other words, the NPS would like to hear from the public now on how to best implement the plan that starts with an official review next summer.

Actual development of a trail would likely not begin for another year and a half, according to the MLive report. In the meantime, graduate students from the University of Michigan have already gathered data on possible hiking and kayak routes, lake access points and campsites.

If the plan goers through, say NPS officials, backwoods camping sites would supplement camping options already present in the Lakeshore. Other amenities could include a Bay-to-Bay Trail campsite reservation system, restrooms, way-finding signs, educational and interpretive signage, bear- and critter- resistant food storage bins, near-shore campsite locations behind foredunes and a mobile app.

NPS Still Looking For Public Comment

The public is currently being urged to offer comment on the proposed 30-mile trail. The comment period of the plan has been extended through October 15, 2014. Click here to provide your input.