BALDWIN — The final part of the Pere Marquette Trail is ready to accommodate walkers, cyclists and fitness aficionados of all ages.

"I think this is a big deal because the Pere Marquette Trail is important when you look at the big picture," said MDNR Recreation Specialist Todd Neiss. "This is the final piece of the puzzle and we're very excited."

To commemorate the finished section, a grand opening and ribbon cutting event will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, at the Baldwin Pere Marquette trail head, 930 S. Cedar St. in Baldwin.

Members of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Transportation, Baldwin Downtown Development Authority, Lake County Chamber of Commerce and other organizations and individuals will be in attendance. In addition, nonprofit organizations will be on hand to distribute information about recreational activities, flora and fauna along the trail and healthy living in Lake County.

This season's construction included limestone surfacing on more than 16 miles of the trail, running parallel to U.S. 10, between M-37 in Baldwin and 220th Avenue in Reed City. The project also included construction of a carpool lot near the U.S. 10 and U.S. 131 interchange that will also function as a trail head parking lot. The cost of the project was more than $1 million, Neiss said. The complete Pere Marquette Trail stretches from Farwell to west of Baldwin.

Pam Simmons is one of many helping to organize the grand opening. She and her husband are avid trail-goers and she is thankful for the MDOT and MDNR's work on the project.

"I feel strongly about these rail trails," Simmons said. "Ever since I've ridden on them, I thought, 'what a wonderful idea for kids, adults and families.'"

Neiss believes rail trails can bring both health and economic benefits to the cities, towns and villages along the path, especially when the trails can be used all year round.

Simmons, a businesswoman in downtown Baldwin, hopes the trail will increase traffic in the city, as the trail runs right through it.

"It's a great thing for Lake County," she said. "It's one more reason to visit."

She added she is looking forward to seeing people discover the trail and take advantage of it throughout the year.

In addition to the ribbon cutting ceremony and light refreshments, the grand opening will include an inaugural bicycle ride to the Idlewild Historic and Cultural Center, a children's bicycle decorating station and safety workshop, and more. The event also will be followed by live music from Root Doctor at the Wenger Pavilion.

The trail project was funded with a combination of an MDNR Trust Fund grant and an MDOT Transportation Alternatives Program grant.

For more information, find "Rails to Trails, Lake County, Michigan" on Facebook or call Pam Simmons at (231) 745-3704.