Lambda’s donation is a big win for Michigan’s trails and communities

Thanks to a generous donation by Lambda Energy Resources, new trail segments will provide year-round opportunities for all to enjoy as early as 2021.

Michigan’s oil and gas industry prides itself on giving back to the places where we work, live, and play. When Harry Faulkner and his partners at Lambda acquired one of the largest and most diverse oil and gas producing assets in Michigan, with their July 2018 purchase from Merit, they set out to meet and befriend their new neighbors.

Lambda hit the ground running, giving back to the local community and expanding year-round recreational opportunities with the help of local, regional, and state-wide partners including; the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Sensational Manistee Area Recreational Trails (SMARTrails), Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail, and the Benzie Manistee Snowbirds snowmobile club.

“All of us at Lambda Energy are proud to make this donation to increase the continuity and utility of this trail.  Trails like this are part of what makes Michigan special, and Lambda employees are avid sportsmen and outdoorsmen.  I can’t wait to try the trail myself.” — Harry Faulkner, CEO of Lambda Energy Resources.

The Snowbirds have been a part of northwest Michigan for over 50 years. What started as a small group has grown into a club of about 250 members that help maintain over 160 miles of trails in Manistee, Benzie, and Leelanau counties. The group’s trails cross local, state, and federal lands, in addition to private property throughout northern Michigan.

Lambda Energy Resources recently donated two properties located in northern Manistee County to the Snowbirds. The two parcels in the townships of Maple Grove and Springdale total just over 20 acres and have 1.5 miles of former railroad bed. The donated property intersects with part of the club’s existing trail system and will allow snowmobilers a straight shot between Thompsonville and Kaleva.

Mark Coe, vice president of the Benzie Manistee Snowbirds snowmobile club, recently discussed the exciting partnerships that are taking shape around the generous gift from Lambda Energy Resources.

According to Mark, the club had sought to obtain the property for the last 15 years through several proposed plans but weren’t able to come up with an agreement with the previous owner. When a club member heard of the sale to Lambda Energy Resources, they reached out to Lambda and were pleasantly surprised when Lambda said they’d be more than happy to work with the club to make the deal happen.

“They (Lambda) said sure, we’re all about recreational trails and if this can be used to help promote health and usage in the rural areas we’d be happy to help. We asked them, well, how much do you want for it and Lambda said, well how about we just donate it to you? We’re really thankful that they offered this up to us. This now gives us the opportunity to promote the same type of things in other areas on our trail systems to get more access and more property developed for trails.”

— Mark Coe, Benzie Manistee Snowbirds Club

With Lambda making this deal with the Snowbirds, the group has reached an agreement with the DNR under which the club will quitclaim this property to the state if the DNR purchases another segment of abandoned railroad right-of-way that’s connected to the property a ways down the road.

Bringing the new segments up to par will involve gravel resurfacing, brush clearing and other minor work, but the club’s volunteers are up to the task. Trail maintenance is an ongoing responsibility that the club prides itself in. The club will also be seeking a recreational grant to fund a small bridge that will be needed over Bear Creek; it is expected to span about 45 feet and will cost an estimated $150,000. The group is currently looking for partners on their 25% match portion. Donations to the "Thompsonville Express" Bridge Project are welcomed and may be mailed to: Benzie Manistee Snowbirds, P.O. Box 1, Kaleva, MI 49645.

On the south end of the trial, the snowbirds will partner with the DNR and SMARTrails to create a dual-purpose system for snowmobiles in the winter and hiking / biking opportunities in the summer.

SMARTrails is dedicated to building trails that connect Manistee County communities, and with the newly acquired segment, the group, in collaboration with the DNR, intends to establish a connector trail from Kaleva to Thompsonville. From there, the Snowbirds hope to work with the Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail to connect this trail with the Betsie Valley Trail that connects Thompsonville, Benzonia, Beulah, and Frankfort.

"It opens up an opportunity that we didn't have to make this a summertime hiking and biking segment that is completely off the grid," said Coe, who also serves as a member of the SMARTrails program. "It's not on any county seasonal roads. This is totally through the woods and it will connect to the Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail group's trail to make this a huge opportunity for people to bike from Benzonia to Kaleva and we're working on going from Kaleva to Manistee as well." –Mark Coe, Benzie Manistee Snowbirds Club.

Michigan prides itself as a trail state with over 13,000 miles of state-designated trails and pathways, offering countless opportunities for motorized and non-motorized use on one of the finest trail systems in the country. In adding to this system, Lambda has ensured greater access for trail enthusiasts from near and far.

“Michigan’s 3,600 plus miles of designated ORV trails and 6,400-plus miles of designated snowmobile trails showcase the beauty of our state in every season. The incredible economic impact of motorized recreation in Michigan would not be possible without our dedicated riders, tireless volunteers, and committed partners, like Michigan’s oil and gas industry. Michigan Snowmobile & ORV Association is proud to work collaboratively with the state’s other land use groups to promote environmental stewardship, increase trail access, and enhance trails across the state”. -Karen Middendorp Interim Executive Director of MISORVA

Coe expects that the newly acquired segment of trail will officially open later next year. Michigan Oil & Gas News will keep you informed as the project progresses. Unique partnerships like these and the generosity of our state’s small oil and gas businesses are part of what makes Michigan’s oil and gas industry so special. If you have a story you’d like to share about the great things going on in your community, email Mike Cornelius at mcornelius@michiganoilandgas.org.

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