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North Eastern State Trail (NEST)

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The North Eastern State Trail (NEST) was formerly part of the Detroit Mackinaw Railway system. It connects the towns of, Posen, Hawks, Millersburg, Onaway, Tower, Aloha, and other smaller towns along the way from Cheboygan to Alpena. The 71 mile corridor is 100’ wide from Cheboygan to Hawks and 66’wide from Hawks to Alpena. The approximate land cover is over 700 acres. The entire rail corridor is owned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and was developed in cooperation with the Top of Michigan Trails Council and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The NEST individually or in combination is part of the over 220+ miles of Michigan’s northern lower peninsula state rail-trail network is not only of regional significance but is also a statewide recreation jewel for Michigan’s 10,000,000+ residents. The improved 10’wide crushed limestone surface with 2’ safety shoulders on each side increases accessibility and provides a more easily traveled trail for all non-motorized uses, and meets or exceeds the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This rail-trail is an excellent recreation opportunity to connect people with the natural resources as it passes through the counties of Cheboygan, Presque Isle, and Alpena; it passes along lakes and ponds, crosses rivers and streams, and connects to Aloha State Park and thousands of acres of state forest lands. The NEST intersects with newly constructed North Central State Trail (NCST), a 62 mile state rail-trail that extends from Gaylord to Mackinaw City and in 2012 was designated as a National Recreation Trail. These two trails intersect in the City of Cheboygan where a trailhead has been developed in partnership with the city. The Cheboygan trailhead site contains vehicle parking, restrooms, a picnic pavilion with tables, and provides excellent access to both state rail-trail facilities. A new trailhead on the NEST in Millersburg was completed in September 2012 and provides vehicle parking, restrooms, a picnic pavilion with tables and fire ring. Also, the Millersburg depot has been renovated into a local history museum, including the railroad history, by the Millersburg Historical Society. Additional rail-trail access opportunities occur along the entire 71 mile stretch of improved surface to downtown business centers for essential services to the trail user. Natural resources are abundant along the 71 mile NEST. The wide variety includes forest lands; wetlands; over sixteen river and stream crossings; and over 800 feet of Mullet Lake shoreline in addition to scenic views and access to Kleber Pond and Tower Pond. The rail-trail will not only provide enhanced opportunities for physical recreation such as biking and hiking but will also serve as a travel route to northern Michigan waters and forests for fishing and hunting opportunities. Wildlife viewing opportunities are identified in the Michigan DNR Wildlife Viewing Guide for the 2,500 acre private Nettie Bay Lodge site which is adjacent to the NEST corridor. The Nettie Bay area has been identified as a prime location for bird watching. Sightings include nesting loons, osprey, eagles, northern goshawk, pileated woodpeckers and other species. The habitat in this area is diverse and is home to over 300 species of song birds. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, fox, and bobcats are year round residents to the area. The Michigan DNR works with several local trail partners to manage and maintain the NEST. The NEST is part of the state designated snowmobile trail network. Three local snowmobile clubs provide seasonal maintenance including clearing, brushing, signage, grading and drainage improvements and other special projects as needed to maintain the corridor, as well as running the groomers to keep smooth trails during the December 1 to March 31 snowmobile season.