We've reached an important milestone in the future of our forests and trails. County and state land, or perhaps more accurately, public land is a vital feature of our area, as those forests are the protected, undeveloped homes of all sorts of recreation. It is of vital importance that those bits of property, woven together like a quilt, stay strong and continue to provide all trail users with access, especially access to multiple trail systems.
The public recently learned that a 160-acre parcel located east of Traverse City on Sand Lakes Road would be sold by Grand Traverse County, ostensibly as a small part of a larger effort to help cover a $53 million shortfall in pension funding. Grand Traverse County has already fielded bids on the property, ranging from $200,00-250,000, including an offer above the asking price on behalf of our friends at Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.
The GTRLC has had this property on their radar for a long time and were quick to not only put in a bid, but appeal to the greater community for support in showing the value of the property for trail users and in keeping natural spaces in that area. For mountain bikers, it's an extremely important stretch of land that helps to connect the K to TC Trail, sections of the famous Iceman Cometh Challenge, parts of the Mud, Sweat and Beers MTB race, plus important connecting trails that link up the Vasa Pathways 25k, the Vasa Singletrack, plus Sand Lakes and Muncie Lake trails.
The parcel also includes the access to picturesque Bullhead Lake, in addition to simply existing as a part of 20,000 acres of state land on all four sides. The loss of this property to commercial development would be devastating to the area, and put the future of those trails at serious risk for the future and disrupt these connecting trails immediately.
We believe the GTRLC offer should be accepting, with the long-term plan of the group to be to sell the property back to the public through the DNR when further options are in place. GTRLC has a long and successful history of conservation and stewardship that includes trails like Glacial Hills and Arcadia Dunes that show that their involvement would be to the environmental and perhaps even economic benefit of the public. We believe the sale of the property to any other entity would be to insult the purpose of these publically-owned parcels and all public land.
We do not believe the public, and specifically, local trail users, should have to pay in lost trail access and natural resources for the mismanagement of County officials. Budgeting issues have a monetary value, and a moral obligation that promises made should be promises kept. However, to penalize trail uninterested organizations and parties not for a dollar amount, but for a permanent loss of natural forest and public land, would be compounding the issue and putting the County even further at odds from doing the right thing. Even the amount of the transaction is a small drop in the budget in the pension gap, and we believe there are other solutions that are will do far more to correct the problem.
We're asking you to join us at the Governmental Center on Boardman Ave on Wendesday, June 7 at 5.30 for a meeting on this issue, and to voice your support for the GTRLC's bid, mission, and proven record of outstanding stewardship.