Record high water levels in Lake Michigan and the Betsie Bay continue to cause significant flooding to the Betsie Valley Trail in the Frankfort/Elberta area. With large sections of the trail underwater with no way to know when the water will recede to even allow for a damage assessment, the future of that section of the trail is unclear.
Two Short Trail Sections will Continue to be Affected
LOCATION: As the trail approaches the Frankfort/Elberta area from the east it crosses the Betsie River and follows the old railroad causeway into Elberta; it then loops back toward Frankfort where it re-crosses the Betsie River.
CONDITION: In that section, the trail is near M22 on one side and Betsie Bay on the other, and it utilizes two separate sections of boardwalk. The boardwalk closest to Elberta and the paved section between the boardwalks are both significantly underwater, are impassable and are closed and blocked off. A short section of the trail south of the causeway is flooded on and off (see purple segment on map below), depending on the water level.
CURRENT ACTIONS: The Friends, with the help of Michigan DOT and the county Road Commission, have posted warning signs to motorists and trail users about the detour around the flooded trail. The one block section of River Road is the easiest detour around the flooded area and a new cross-walk has been painted on the road at the River Road / M22 intersection. Patience is needed, as the fluctuating water level often makes it difficult to provide definitive directions.
OUTLOOK: With no way to predict when water levels will recede, the future remains unclear. MDOT just completed a repaving project in the area on M22. They currently have M22 down to one-way traffic, controlled by a stop light in the area where trail users can detour around the closed section of trail.
It is possible if the water gets even higher that section of highway will be closed, which would further complicate things for trail users.
There clearly has already been damage to the trail and boardwalks, but there is no reasonable way to assess the damage unless and until the water level drops. Some temporary repairs were made, and Mich DNR has brought in material to slow down ongoing erosion and damage.
We simply don’t know at this time when, or even if, the water level will drop. If it drops, we can then determine how much it will cost and how long it will take to reopen all sections of the trail. If it doesn’t drop, we’ll need to explore raising the trail to a usable condition.
We hope the installation of the new signage and a crosswalk will help make navigating this small section of the trail a bit safer, but remember to use caution whenever traversing roads, especially with increasing summer traffic. We encourage everyone to get out and enjoy all 22 miles of the Betsie Valley Trail and please send us your pictures and share your experiences!