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.

Collaboration Agreement Signatories

1. Advancing Macomb
2. Bedford Township
3. Bike Windsor Essex
4. Bluewater Area Chamber of Commerce
5. The Carls Foundation
6. City of Detroit
7. City of Gibraltar
8. City of Luna Pier
9. City of Monroe
10. City of River Rouge
11. City of Trenton
12. City of Wyandotte
13. Clinton River Watershed Council
14. Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
15. Detroit Disability Power
16. Detroit Greenways Coalition
17. Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
18. Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
19. Downriver Linked Greenways
20. DTE Foundation
21. Erie Township Board
22. Friends of the Rouge
23. General Motors Company
24. Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy

25. Grosse Ile Rotary Club
26. Grosse Ile Township
27. International Wildlife Refuge Alliance
28. The Leinweber Foundation
29. Macomb County Planning and Economic Development
30. Michigan Department of Natural Resources
31. Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance
32. Monroe County
33. Monroe County Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee
34. Monroe County Business Development Coalition
35. Monroe Cycling Club
36. MotorCities National Heritage Area
37. National Wildlife Federation
38. River Raisin Institute
39. St. Clair County Regional Trails Board
40. St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow
41. Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)
42. University of Windsor Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research
43. Wayne County Parks
44. Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority
45. The Wyandot of Anderdon Nation

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Greg Yankee