The Beaver Island Community Center will serve as the official trailhead for the newly established Beaver Island Water Trail.
Featured photo of Beaver Island (Community Center not pictured) by Frank Solle, StillPoint Photography
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“We are excited to serve as an information point for the new trail,” Said Carol Creasser, who is president of the Preservation Association of Beaver Island, which operates the Community Center. “With our location right across from the ferry dock, we are a natural first point of contact for visitors. Our lobby often hosts visitors looking for information on our local hiking trails and we already serve as the trailhead for the Beaver Island Birding Trail.” Paddlers coming to the island will be able to stop by the Community Center for trail maps, local information and internet access.
“The Community Center is a great resource for all visitors,” said islander Pam Grassmick, an early supporter of the water trail project. “Having the trail head there will make it easy for paddlers to become oriented with the island. Plus, they’ll have access to the many other services that are available there.” Matt Preisser from the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes echoed that view. “We’ve been working with folks both on the water trail project and a number of other island projects and the Community Center has always made resources available to support us. I can’t think of a better place for the trail head.”
The 50-mile, non-motorized Beaver Island Water aims to enhance access, highlight natural and cultural features and promote tourism on the lake’s largest, most remote inhabited isle. The route includes lighthouses, beaches, birding hotspots, shipwrecks, beaver activity areas, campsites and more. “The campsites are key to the trail,” said Mark Engelsman, who owns Happy Paddle on the island. “There are short loops on the trail, but an excursion around the island is a multi-day adventure.” Engelsman and fellow islander Carol Burton were both involved in developing the trail. She said, “Another important feature will be emergency phones at certain locations on the trail because mobile service can be spotty.” Burton owns the St. James Boat Shop, builders of handcrafted wooden boats, canoes and paddleboards.
The Traverse City-based Land Access Information Association helped develop the plan. LIAA President Harry Burkholder, who has considerable experience in water trail development, sees it as developing additional ecotourism opportunities for the island. Bill McDonough, who was also involved early on in the project, agrees. “This will be yet another great reason for folks to head over to the island,” he said. McDonough is co-owner of McDonough’s Market and the Dalwhinnie Bakery & Deli as well as president of the Beaver Island Boat Company, which operates the island’s ferry service. “I’m glad to see the Community Center serving as the trail head,” added McDonough. “It’s the island’s welcome center.”
In addition to serving as a trailhead, the Beaver Island Community Center serves as the social heart of the community. Its Robert Gillespie Memorial Theater is the venue for a summer concert series, community concerts and theater, professional meetings, lectures, art sales and more. Upstairs there are games, a pool table, PCs and printers, and a comfy corner to read or watch a movie on a rainy day. The lobby has a concession stand, information racks with brochures about island activities and tables that are ideal for laying out plans for the day or grabbing a quick snack. The BIC Center also houses the main studio of WVBI-FM, the island’s radio station.
An online guide for the water trail is available at watertrail.biccenter.org and printed copies will be available in the BIC Center lobby. You can learn about upcoming events at the BIC Center or find more information about other island trails at bicenter.org.