The Great Lakes Way

An Initiative of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

One of southeast Michigan’s most valuable resources is its connection with and access to the Great Lakes — one-fifth of the standing freshwater on the earth’s surface. The Great Lakes are essential to the economic success and social and cultural fabric of the region.

Over the past several years, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan convened a group of organizations, municipalities, and private sector interests to explore ways to build on these freshwater assets. A vision was created for what is now called The Great Lakes Way®.

The Great Lakes Way is an interconnected set of greenways and blueways that will stretch from southern Lake Huron through western Lake Erie, passing through the counties of Monroe, Wayne, Macomb, and St. Clair. The vision incorporates approximately 160 miles of greenways and approximately 156 miles of blueways along southeast Michigan’s coastline.

The Great Lakes Way will promote access to and usage of the Great Lakes by people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. It will link residents and visitors to an impressive collection of world-class freshwater, wildlife, and recreation assets. The vision map highlights the area’s world-class fisheries and bird migration paths, parks, working waterways, preserved woodlands, and restored wetlands.

The Great Lakes Way can also help catalyze economic development, increase property values, support healthy living, promote conservation, and celebrate historical and cultural assets — making southeast Michigan the No. 1 freshwater recreation destination in the United States.

While the vision has been developed, much work remains. The blueways have been mapped and are already being used. Of the roughly 160 miles of greenways, 64% is completed, 26% has a partial connection, 25% has a plan in place, and just 11% lacks paths for bicycles or pedestrians.

The Community Foundation has begun outreach up and down the corridor to engage local communities and citizens in learning about and partnering in the development of the Great Lakes Way. Conversations have also begun with representatives at the federal and state level about federal and state designations for the Great Lakes Way. The National Parks Service and Michigan Department of Natural Resources have provided staff to support the Community Foundation on this effort.

This is a multi-year undertaking that requires staffing, organization, outreach, branding, and communication. With the vision now in place, fundraising is being undertaken with other foundations, corporations, and individuals.

For more information please contact Dayna Hart at dhart@cfsem.org or Katie Brisson at kbrisson@cfsem.org.

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Greg Yankee