If you’ve been on the Boardman Lake Trail in Traverse City, you’ve probably seen a couple in bright orange vests clipping, cleaning or waving. The two are a welcome and regular sight on the trail: John on his bike with a cart full of tools in tow, Carla giving directions to families from out of town. The Olds live in a home along the paved path and have, in a word, adopted the trail.

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“Our trail ambassadors, like John and Carla, are exactly what our trails are about: community and connection,” says Julie Clark, executive director of Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails. “They have such pride and joy for the trail, that it translates to others out on the trail, too! They are caretakers and a welcome face for all.”

TART is a “friends” group and trail management nonprofit organization that was established in 1998. If you’re an avid walker, cyclist or cross-country skier, you’ve probably discovered a TART trail, whether it takes you throughout Traverse City, out to Leelanau County or through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

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TART’s mission is to provide and promote a trail network throughout the greater Grand Traverse region—a goal they are well into after more than two decades. Currently, TART has nine active projects underway, including trails in Acme, Traverse City and Empire.

“TART’s vision is to have happy, active people enjoying a world-class trail system,” Clark says. “The best trails are developed with government agencies, potential trail neighbors, advocates of all sorts, private businesses and funders all sitting at the table. The best trails come from collaboration.”

The Boardman is one of TART’s most visible and popular projects in Traverse City this year. The soon-to-be 5-mile loop around Boardman Lake connects trail users to places like the TC Library, Oryana Community Co-op, Hull and Medalie parks and beyond—all with the beautiful lake at the center, hosting sailboats, kayakers and the occasional pair of swans.

“When our job is done, the whole region will be connected by trails, bikeways and pedestrian-friendly streets linking people to the beauty of the Traverse area year-round,” Clark says.

Photo(s) by TART Trails