This award recognizes a friends volunteer group which has shown outstanding support of their local trail through fundraising, trail development, maintenance, advocating, promoting, and enhancing the trail for future generations.
Since its creation in 1963, the Michigan Trail Riders Association (MTRA) has continually worked toward developing, maintaining, and expanding a system of camps and trails stretching across the State of Michigan.
MTRA maintains 500 miles of trail and 18 trail camps in partnership with the United States Forest Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
In the early 1960’s the idea of a horse trail going across Michigan, from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron, was conceived by horseback riders Fitch and Louise Williams, Tony and Sally Wilhelm, and Rex and Phyllis Garn, all of Grand Traverse County. The group visited Lost Creek Sky Ranch and the idea of riding across the state sparked a fire.
Jim Hardy, owner of the dude ranch, worked on the east side of the trail. Jim’s neighbor, Forest Rhodes, worked for the U.S. Forest Service. He helped Jim set up a network of trails from Tawas City to the Manistee River west of Frederick. The Traverse group worked on the west end of the trail. Thus the Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail began.
Since it was created in 1963, the MTRA has continually endeavored to live up to its founders’ goals and aims of developing, maintaining, and expanding a system of camps and trails stretching across the State of Michigan. Now, it is at least as big a job for the volunteers to preserve, maintain, and expand upon what the founders created. To this end, the organization works in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the United States Forest Service, the governmental agencies which control the public lands upon which the Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail and its associated camps are located. Other partners in this effort include county agencies, local organizations such as scout troops and 4-H clubs, and private citizens.
The goal of the Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail is to help the public enjoy the sport of horseback riding and the love of the outdoors. The trail provides nearly unlimited riding in wilderness areas and provides a way across the state of Michigan though the more civilized areas. Families from all over Michigan, and from other states, especially Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and from Canada, have joined the MTRA. They come from all walks of life but they share an interest in horses and the out-of-doors.
The Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail is a valued resource for many user groups. In winter, dog sled teams, cross country skiers and scouts compete, camp and enjoy recreational activities along the trail. USFS regulations prohibit motorized vehicle use on the Michigan Shore-to-Shore Riding and Hiking Trail.
Every year the MTRA organizes at least five Trail Rides and two Work Bees as well as various other “repair” activities to maintain the Shore-to-Shore Trail. The Trail Rides run from May to October varying from 8 to 22 days in length. While some of them offer a trophy for a successful shore-to-shore ride, other rides are more leisurely offering social activities such as canoeing, kayaking, ice cream visits, etc.
The Work Bees are organized around a specific trail camp or section of trail that needs repairs, refurbishing, etc. and are usually in May and August. Some special “repair” activities arise out of need to address a situation that needs to be taken care of right away such as boardwalk repairs, picket pole replacement, etc.