The concept of a trail encircling Hardy Pond was the creative vision of Dave Wright, Big Prairie Township Supervisor, with strategic brainstorming sessions taking place in 2009. Moving this vision from concept to reality began the following year with initial planning and talks with Consumers Energy and multiple community stakeholders.
In 2015, after the idea gained significant traction, Newaygo and Mecosta Counties committed $150,000 each to fund professional development of the trail system in order to receive approvals from Consumers Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to create Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam. These approvals came in 2019 and the project quickly moved into the implementation phase as construction plans were finalized and trail construction began.
A major investment of $500,000 from Fremont Area Community Foundation contributed to Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam enabled the proposed construction timeline to become reality. Shortly after the reception of this generous contribution from Fremont Area Community Foundation, professional fundraising began to ensure funding for additional trail build phases. The project has, to date, received initial donations from Consumers Energy Foundation, Mecosta County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Nestle Waters North America, Bissell Inc., New Holland Brewing and White Cloud Rotary. Michigan’s Dragon Trail at Hardy Dam project team is very grateful to these partners for their generous gifts, which makes continued construction a reality. Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam project team is excited to gain additional partners who see the value in this project moving forward.
The final trail system will be a 47-mile linear County Park jointly managed by the Newaygo and Mecosta County Park Commissions. In addition, West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance (WMMBA) has entered into a volunteer maintenance agreement with the Park Commissions to assist with routine maintenance of this world-class trail system. Without community partners like WMMBA, this project would not be possible.
Construction is currently taking place near Brower Park, Newaygo State Park and near Sandy Beach County Park. These three segments will be open for use by summer 2020. Future trail segments connecting those currently under construction are expected to be built in 2021, with other sections being built in 2020.
Construction of Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam is underway, and after 10 years in the making, the Dragon has taken its first breath! With partners from multiple agencies and organizations across public and private sectors, this project has become a reality. In addition to enhanced recreation opportunities for residents and visitors, Michigan’s Dragon at Hardy Dam will be a significant regional asset, a truly unique trail system that will attract outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe, creating more jobs and providing positive economic impact for West Michigan.