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      Volunteers flock to water trail meeting

      Dozens showed up to a water trail planning meeting in Elk Rapids to learn more about the new project and how to help out.

      People in Elk Rapids learned more about a plan in the works for a water trail system Wednesday night.

      The trail would run from northern Antrim County all the way along both coasts of East Bay.

      Dozens showed up to hear about volunteer opportunities. Some people had to stand because every chair was filled.

      The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy recently received a Coastal Zone Management grant from the Department of Environmental Quality to develop the water trail plan.

      ??It's a feature that connects access points together along a waterway,?? explained Megan Olds, associate director of GTRLC. ??It could be a lake or river or bay. It's a way of marketing a natural resource in a way for people to connect with nature in a way that's safe and comfortable for them.??

      Alaina Dodds recently moved back to northern Michigan from Colorado. She wants to show her friends why.

      ??We have such an amazing part of the country here,?? said Alaina Dodds from Traverse City. ??So I definitely invite everyone.??

      The water trail plan could have a lasting economic impact by emphasizing what town has to offer.

      ??It creates unity and a concept that uses our natural resources that we have flowing right through our downtown,?? said Misty Youngson, economic director of the Elk Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

      ??A lot of us who live here enjoy this,?? said Olds. ??It's the reason we choose to live, work, and play here. The idea behind creating a water trail is to create that access for everyone and hopefully connect people with new business opportunities related to the trail as well.??

      The business opportunities are not bound by city limits. Many community leaders are expressing excitement about the idea of connecting their communities. The people who live there are optimistic, too.

      ??It's super inspiring to see. We already have the community to become such a water town. To get ideas going, what businesses can do to make sure we're letting everyone know what we have here, we're open to all recreational users,?? said Dodds.

      By next June, the conservancy hopes to have maps available for people to use in order to access the waterways.

      GTRLC is looking for volunteers to help gather information, evaluating and classifying water access points.

      You can sign up on the conservancy website.