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The opportunity to move ahead with improvements to the Bear River Valley represented the culmination of years of planning and programming which began in the early 1980s with the Bear River Valley Recreation Area Development Strategy. Future funding potential was identified and put in place with the 1985 Tax Increment Finance District and Plan which included the Petoskey waterfront from Magnus Park to the Arboretum and the Bear River Valley to Riverbend Park.


The main goal of this project was to enhance public access to the valley floor, allowing visitors to more easily reach the Bear River, systems of trails and recreational features. Entrance points were created at adjacent streets and public parking lots, using stairs and ramps to bring pedestrians down into the valley. For the most part the valley floor was left in its natural state. In selected areas, special features such as picnic shelters, river overlooks, and wetland boardwalks were provided. The main trail is 10 feet wide, hard surfaced and universally accessible to allow persons with all mobility ranges to experience the full length of the valley floor. Likewise, all facilities in the valley floor are barrier free. Side trails in other areas of the valley and valley walls consist of shredded bark natural trails, stabilized aggregate trails and hard surfaced trails connecting the main trail to the many valley entrances. Boardwalks were developed where the trails traverse wetland areas.

Bear River Valley Recreation Area
Petoskey, Michigan

2016 Implementation Award

Michigan Associatoin of Planning

2011 Design Award for Landscape Design

Michigan Recreation & Park Association

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