Traverse City Tourism Agency Teams Up with Mapmaker to Create Online Trail Maps

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Tourism officials in Traverse City have entered into partnership with a noted mapmaker to create and distribute high-quality online trail maps for the area's recreational visitors.

Hikers pause along the North Country Trail, just  south of Traverse City

Hikers pause along the North Country Trail, just south of Traverse City

Biking, hiking and the whole outdoors experience are a big part of our tourism product, and having accurate maps is an important step in making it more accessible and more attractive to our visitors.

Tourism officials in Traverse City have entered into partnership with a noted mapmaker to create and distribute high-quality online trail maps of the region's many hiking and biking trails.

Traverse City Tourism, the area;s destination marketing organization, has linked up with Jim DuFresne, whose company, MichiganTrailMaps.com, produces detailed maps complete with GIS coordinates, satellite imagery, topographical data and on-the-scene field research that provides travelers with information about what they’ll encounter along the way. The company has begun to research, map and post online the major trails in the Traverse City area. Traverse City Tourism, in turn, posts the maps on its own website and distributes printed versions at its Visitor Center – which will open a new brochure section dedicated entirely to trail maps on April 1.

A bustling resort town on the Lake Michigan shore, Traverse City markets itself as a four-season hub for outdoor recreation. Its miles of trails and pathways draw hikers, backpackers and cyclists in spring, summer and fall – and in winter they bring in skiers and snowshoers by the carload. But although the city is surrounded by thousands of acres of public parks and forests, much of that territory isn’t easily explored by the casual visitor because it hasn’t been accurately mapped.

That’s why Traverse City Tourism has decided to work with DuFresne's company, which has spent the last four years creating high-quality recreational maps of more than 200 hiking and biking trails in the state.

“Biking, hiking and the whole outdoors experience are a big part of our tourism product, and having accurate maps is an important step in making it more accessible and more attractive to our visitors,” said Traverse City Tourism president Brad Van Dommelen.

DuFresne is no stranger to backcountry trails and pathways. He spent more than 30 years writing trail guidebooks for Lonely Planet Publications, authoring books on hiking New Zealand and Alaska and almost a dozen about various parts of his native Michigan. His “Backpacking in Michigan” is still the standard guidebook.

He and a partner started MichiganTrailMaps.com in 2010, when they realized that hikers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts were relying on “poor and even inaccurate” maps that lacked information about conditions or attractions along some very beautiful routes. They decided to create an on-line archive of maps that could be searched not simply by location but by activity, distance and degree of difficulty, each map accompanied by a written introduction and guide.

The maps can be downloaded free of charge, but many users prefer to pay $4.95 per map for the detailed “Classic Trails of Michigan” series, which features laminated, brochure-style printed version that can easily tucked into a pack or jacket pocket.

“They’re not just drawing maps,” said Van Dommelen. “They’re taking the time to actually get out there on the trails and see what it’s like. We’ve always told people what a great experience they can have here, but now we’re giving them the tools to truly enjoy it – to find these places, navigate their way through them, and know ahead of time what they’ll be able to see and do.”

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Mike Norton
Traverse City Tourism
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