DTE Energy Foundation Trail system in the Waterloo State Recreation Area is a developing network of new mountain biking trails. The project is headed by the 250 member Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association who oversees construction and ongoing maintenance of the trails. DTE has designated $250,000 in matching funds for the construction of the trails. Primary funding comes from private donors and fundraisers.
Construction for the first trail, the 5-mile Green Lake Loop, began in 2015 and opened in Spring 2016 and is described as a “flow trail.” The absence of technical features and climbs gives this trail a rhythmic sense of flow, or “zone”, or even “Zen.” In the bike shop where I work, we recommend this trail for those first-time mountain bikers. Although engineered for mountain biking, the trails aren’t just for riders. Many hikers and runners have been enjoying them as well.
“It has been a few years now since DTE Energy Foundation Trail opened and we are overwhelmed with its popularity,” says Jason Aric Jones, Chairperson for the DTE Energy Foundation Trail Committee.
The Big Kame loop, also about 5 miles, opened in Spring 2017. It is the second of the five planned trails in the network. A “kame” is a hill formed from the deposits of a receding glacier. The Big Kame loop is hilly, fun, but with some very technical features like the “Rock Gardens”, a half-dozen or so large stone ramps constructed to challenge, thrill, and scare the bejeebers out of riders.
The DTE Foundation Trail system is not just another set of trails being clear cut through the woods. These trails are specifically engineered with conservancy in mind. These trails are designed to hold their integrity against such erosive factors as rain and spring thaw. A group of advocates carefully monitor the trail system and close it down when weather conditions make riding hazardous to the environment.
The third installment, the Winn Loop, will open later this summer. It features a scenic ride along Cassidy Lake with just enough difficulty and features to keep it interesting and challenging. The DTE Energy Trail System has become a destination for mountain bikers, runners, and hikers from all around southeast Michigan.
The entire trail system is being built, maintained, and managed by the local mountain biking club Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association (PMBA). Besides mountain biking, the PMBA has a strong reputation for volunteer work to maintain trails such as their 17-mile namesake Potawatomi Trail and its tributaries Silver Lake Trail and Crooked Lake Trail. With the addition of the Winn Loop this summer, they will be adding another 15-miles of trail to maintain.
The club’s trail maintenance extends well beyond the Pinckney Rec Area and DTE borders. Wherever there are trails, riders can be found trimming back brush, clearing fallen trees, picking up litter, and maintaining trail conditions in places such as Brighton Rec Area, Island Lake Rec Area, Rolling Hills County Park, Hewins Creek, and others.
Jason states, “With this in mind, we need to expand our volunteer base to keep things going and conduct routine trail maintenance.” Routine maintenance consists primarily of lopping branches which encroach on the trail corridor. Other routine maintenance consists of weed whipping, keeping drainage basins clear, and of course picking up any stray water bottles or wrappers that may have been dropped.
“To recruit more help,” Jason says. “We will soon be implementing an Adopt-A-Trail Segment Program at DTE.” The program is open to all who use the trails – hikers, dog-walkers, runners, skiers, snowshoers, bikers, etc. Jason is hoping it will be a collective effort of varied sports and activities.
Jason explains how the program, still in its planning stages, will work:
- Each loop will be divided into multiple “segments”, which will be identified on a map by either color-coding or numbers.
- Volunteers (either individuals or small groups of up to three individuals per segment) will then be solicited each season to “own” one of these segments as adopters.
- Volunteers will be given a primer on how to conduct routine maintenance, and will then be “set free”, charged with the responsibility to keep their respective sections neat, tidy and trimmed for all users.
- While volunteers may use their own tools, we also have a DTE tool trailer nearby the trail off of Waterloo Road where adopters will be able to “check out” tools to use for their routine maintenance. Adopters will simply arrange tool pick up with the PMBA/DTE Trail Maintenance Coordinator.
- At the end of the season, in late fall, adopters will receive a small token of appreciation and recognition for their adoption work. Each adopter will also be issued a special DTE Crew Hi-Vis Tech Tee to wear while conducting maintenance.
The program will go into effect this summer. If you would like more information on the Adopt-A-Trail program, you can find it on their website at http://www.potomba.org/adopt-a-trail-segment/ or follow along on Facebook.