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What We Do Home>Transportation Planning>Southwest Michigan Trailways Efforts>Trails and Roadways>Trail Towns

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Trail Towns

A “Train Town” is a community in which local officials and businesses leverage their recreational trail systems as a focal point of a tourism-centered strategy for community and economic development. The basic concept is simple: ensure that communities along the trail system are better able to maximize the economic potential and benefits of trail-based tourism. For this planning project, the Trail Town effort was primarily centered on the Lake Michigan Water Trail. However, we did incorporate other terrestrial trails into the strategic planning effort to help broaden the effectiveness of the Trail Town strategy.  This effort was funded with MDEQ Coastal Zone Management Program, The Pokagon Fund and the Berrien Community Foundation.

This planning project worked to implement components of the Lake Michigan Water Trail Plan, which was developed in 2014 with support from the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program. Under that planning project, local officials along the Lake Michigan coastline expressed enthusiasm for improving access to their water resources, but often noted funding and planning as a limiting factor for implementing such improvements. It was also noted that increased attention should be paid to providing “universal access” to water trail amenities. Developing launches and related infrastructure such as restrooms and parking with universal accessibility in mind improves paddling and recreation opportunities for users of all ages and abilities.

The following SW Michigan communities participated in the Trail Towns effort:

New Buffalo, South Haven, St. Joseph, Bridgman and Buchanan.


What is a Trail Town?



Lake Michigan Coastal Communities Trail Towns Master Plan (Full report large file) 

Appendices for SW Michigan Communities



New Buffalo

South Haven

St Joseph


Other Appendices

Business Checklist

Complete Streets Policy

Universal Water Trail Launch Features

This page last updated on 8/3/2018.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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