LANSING, MI - The Department of Natural Resources today announced this showcase trail will officially be called Michigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail.\r\n\u201cThis name effectively captures the beauty and strength of our state\u2019s exceptional natural and cultural resources,\u201d said DNR Director Keith Creagh. \u201cAlong the route from Belle Isle to Ironwood, Michigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail will ultimately connect communities, provide a variety of recreation opportunities, and showcase our great state to residents and visitors alike.\u201d \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCreagh said it\u2019s important to note that while Michigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail is a work in progress, significant portions of the trail already exist throughout both peninsulas and are open right now for public enjoyment and exploration.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe hard work and thoughtful vision that have for years gone into Michigan\u2019s existing trail system and future connectors help to lay the groundwork for completion of this important cross-state trail,\u201d Creagh said.\r\n\r\nThe DNR in September hosted a contest inviting residents and visitors to submit their best ideas to help name the trail. More than 8,800 submissions were received and then evaluated by a team representing partner organizations \u2013 the Michigan Trails Advisory Council, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Recreation and Park Association and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance \u2013 involved in the trail\u2019s establishment.\r\n\r\nDNR Director Creagh chose the final name based on recommendations from that committee.\r\n\r\nThe trail-naming contest ran for three weeks (Sept. 22-Oct. 13, 2014), with entries submitted via online survey, Facebook and paper entry form. Contest participants also showed their support by sending hand-drawn logo concepts, personal stories about their connections to trails and even a stack of entries from elementary students.\r\n\r\nThe DNR received hundreds of variations of the final name. To determine contest winners, three names\u00a0were randomly drawn from that smaller pool of entries: Amanda Mailer (Rochester, Michigan), Matthew Husted (Jerome, Michigan) and John Meikle (Lapeer, Michigan). Each will be awarded (via drawing) one of three vacation prize packages at locations along the trail:\r\n\r\n\tThe Henry Ford and Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit\r\n\tThe Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island\r\n\tKaug Wudjoo Lodge at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFirst proposed as a \u201cshowcase trail\u201d by Gov. Rick Snyder in November 2012, Michigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail will stretch across Michigan and link numerous existing trails to provide both a 1,259-mile hiking route and a 774-mile bicycling route. One end of the trail lies in Michigan's newest state park, Belle Isle Park (Wayne County); the other is more than 900 miles away in Ironwood (Gogebic County).\r\nThe Parks and Recreation Division of the DNR, as well as other partners, currently is seeking private and public funding to secure and develop trail corridors for Michigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail. Temporary connectors already are in place along much of the trail and will be made permanent as resources become available. For more information about the development of the trail, please contact DNR state trails coordinator Paul Yauk at 517-284-6141.\r\nAdditional segments of Michigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail will open throughout 2015, with ceremonial events in communities along the trail to locally mark the occasions.\r\nMichigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail follows the existing North Country National Scenic Trail for most of its length in Michigan (1,085 of 1,259 miles). North Country Trail extends to the New York\/Vermont border to the east and central North Dakota to the west. Spanning 4,600 miles, it is the longest National Scenic Trail in the nation.\r\nMichigan \u2013 a national leader in designated trail miles and plentiful opportunities for hiking, bicycling, snowmobiling, kayaking and other trail pursuits \u2013 continues to cement its reputation as the nation\u2019s Trails State. The state offers more than 12,000 miles of recreational trails total.\r\nAn extensive Michigan State Trails system provides broad public access to low-cost, healthy recreation opportunities and strengthens communities\u2019 appeal by boosting quality-of-life amenities.\r\nThe Department of Natural Resources works each year with local communities and partners to celebrate and promote Michigan\u2019s excellent public trail offerings during Michigan Trails Week \u2013 which this year runs Sept. 19-26, 2015. The website offers many planning tools and\u00a0ideas for participating community projects.\r\nVisit the DNR website www.michigan.gov\/dnrtrails to sign up for email updates and to learn more about Michigan\u2019s Iron Belle Trail and other recreation trail offerings.