Trails for horse riding, biking, more water access proposed for Proud Lake

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Separate trails for equestrian use and mountain biking, accessibility for those with disabilities and increased water access are among proposed changes for the Proud Lake State Recreation Area in Oakland County.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will share a draft of its general management plan this week during a virtual public meeting from 6-7 p.m. Thursday. The plan is designed to identify the state's long-range goals to protect a park's resources while also addressing recreational needs.

"It's public land," said Debbie Jensen, park management plan administrator for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. "We want to be responsive to the people that use it. Typically we have these meetings in person, but that's not going to happen right now. We want to make sure we're responsive to our user base while still staying true to our mission and making sure we protect the land for future generations."

Patrick and Lori Korte of Novi paddle kayaks on the Huron River at Proud Lake State Recreation Area in Commerce Township in 2019.

Proud Lake State Recreation Area covers more than 3,000 acres in Commerce Township. It's known for its four miles of the Huron River that run through the park as well as 20 miles of trails for mountain biking, hiking and horse riding.

“It’s got a big range of things to do and yet it still feels like a natural area close to where people live,” Jensen said. “It has a draw for a lot of different reasons.”

The state has 103 state parks and recreational areas. The DNR does between three and five general management plans each year, Jensen said. 

More than 1,900 people completed a survey about the recreation area, with most responses from local participants, Jensen said. A small number of respondents were from out of state, including visitors from Wisconsin and Illinois. 

Following the virtual meeting Thursday, participants will have a chance to offer feedback and ask questions with DNR staff. Registration is required.

Some of the trails in the Proud Lake State Recreation Area are shared by equestrian and mountain bike users, Jensen said. Among the top survey responses were requests to separate the trails, she said.

“Those uses are not always compatible with each other, so people were letting us know that they would like to have separate trails …” she said. “There will still be a few shared use where it’s wide enough to accommodate both. That is our goal to work with our equestrian and mountain bike partners to separate the uses of the trail.”

Another popular survey response was the need for more accessibility for people with disabilities.

“That’s definitely something we can look at at all of our parks and I think there are some improvements that we can do at Proud Lake as well,” she said.

The third top request was better access to water.

“Water plays a big part at the park, but access to it is not always easy,” she said.

The survey comes as the state sees an uptick in park use amid the pandemic. In 2020, state parks saw 35 million visitors, a 30% increase from the prior year. 

Kyle Gray, left 12, and his sister Taylor, 11, roast marshmallows while their family camps at Proud Lake State Recreation Area in this file photo from 2009.

"Recreation is one of the go-to things for people to do right now," she said.

Those interested in attending the virtual meeting can sign up on the meeting registration page.