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Bike on, Holland: Lakeshore trail network provides a safe & scenic haven for cyclists


Tulips, you may soon be sharing the limelight with bicycles. With almost 200 miles of trails in the greater Holland area, and plans for even more, city officials, volunteers and dedicated citizens are working together to continue making the area a major destination for cyclists.
When most Michiganders think of Holland, they imagine its Dutch tulips, its characteristically quaint streets or perhaps the campus of Hope College. When trail enthusiasts consider this lakeshore town and the surrounding area, they take a moment to revel at the region's 190 miles of pathways that guide cyclists, commuters and families safely to their various destinations. Add in the 70 miles of on-street facilities such as four-foot wide shoulders for cyclists, and the Holland Metro Area Trails have quickly become a haven for cyclists seeking a safe and scenic route through the region.

"There is nowhere that you cannot ride a bike in the Holland area," says Scott Post, an engineer at Prein & Newhof, a West Michigan civil and environmental engineering firm that specializes in outdoor spaces. "It's quite the network."

Scott Post

Spending 21 years working on the development of the region's trails, Post has continued the firm's work of the area's rapid multiplication in pathways since the first installation in the early 1980s (along Ottawa Road). In addition to sequestered trails, "almost every major road has a bike path along it," says Post, making the Holland area an ideal destination for outdoor tourism. "No matter where you stay, you can bike anywhere," he adds, noting that many of the region's Airbnbs advertise close proximity to local biking trails.


Prein & Newhoff has designed a majority of the pathways in Ottawa County, paving most with asphalt for easy riding. Post and his compatriots also attempt to continuously preserve the charm and history of the region, even utilizing porous concrete (a special type of concrete that allows precipitation to flow through it) to preserve a 200-year-old oak "treaty tree" along the Beeline, a section of the trail that stretches from Holland to the Village of Saugatuck. This particular tree was so named due to a local legend that tells of area Native Americans and early European settlers using it as a location for important discussions.

This attention to detail and dedication to providing easily traversable spaces is aided by the area's accessible topography. "The whole region is pretty flat," says Post, an aspect that attracts cyclists and visitors of all types and ability levels.

Accessibility such as this has also enabled commuters to travel on the trails daily. One such commuter is Brian Stauffer, a board member of the region's Outdoor Discovery Center Matacawa Greenway, a nonprofit outdoor education organization. Commuting for 30 years by bike from the north side of Holland to Herman Miller and then Ottawa Door Light, Inc., Stauffer appreciates the "practicality of getting some place on a bike," he says. "What a way to save some cash and burn some calories while you're at it." Enjoying the time to himself in the mornings and evenings, Stauffer looked forward to his daily ride utilizing the Park Township and Holland Township sections of the trail network. "It's always been a good way to warm up to work on the way in and wind down from work on the way home," he says.

Stauffer also later utilized Holland's metro trails to train for triathlons, going on to train with the U.S. Olympic team in the mid 1980s. Now retired from the sport, Stauffer trains children in Ride of Their Lives, a program designed to prepare kids with special needs from triathlons. Still active on the trails on a daily basis, Stauffer notes, "I use them pretty much every where I go."

Among his many favorite sections of the Holland metro trails, Stauffer has a particular fondness for the area's board on which he sits, the Macatawa Greenway. "Upper Macatawa is a must-see," he says. Stretching 10 miles along the Macatawa River and including more than one mile of paved trail and four miles of hiking trails, the greenway sits just east of Zeeland and provides a natural destination for school groups and families. Curving through woods, ravines, 50-foot high bridges and mountain biking trails, "it's quite a spectacular area," says Stauffer. In addition, "it's an important link," says Stauffer. Connecting the Holland metro trails with the Fred Meijer Mid West Michigan Trail Network and linking Zeeland to Holland, the greenway is essentially a park providing a short, scenic, respite situated amongst dozens of trails.

With almost 200 miles of trails in the Holland/Zeeland/Macatawa area and plans for more, city officials, volunteers and dedicated citizens are working together to continue making the area a destination for cyclists. "We are working to continue to add 3 or more miles of non-motorized facilities annually," says Elisa Hoekwater, transportation program manager of the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. "It is exciting to see local units of government working together to make these connections happen," she adds.

For a detailed bicycling map of the Holland Metro Area Trails and the greater Grand Region, check out this brochure.

This article is part of an ongoing series, Moments on the Trails, and was made possible by the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition. For more information about the WMTGC, visit wmtrails.org.
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