Last week, business and community leaders of Cadillac dedicated a new trailhead of the White Pine Trail that not only demarcates the northern terminus of the 92-mile rail trail, but also is the fifth feature element of a multi-year downtown placemaking project known as Cadillac Commons.
“We are excited to dedicate this space as the northern anchor to a very special trail in Michigan,” said Kathy Morin, Executive Director of the Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau (CAVB). “As a designated Pure Michigan Trail Town, Cadillac is thrilled to feature a space that officially marks the northern end of the trail. This also is a key component of the Cadillac Commons project that has been many years in the making – serving as both a point of pride for residents and an attraction for visitors.”

White Pine Trailhead Elements 

Established in 1995, the White Pine Trail (formally known as Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park) is one of Michigan’s first rail trail state parks and the second longest in the state at 92 miles. Connecting Comstock Park to Cadillac and passing through 15 towns and five counties, the trail follows the old Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad rail bed, consisting primarily of asphalt except for a 30-mile section of gravel that is expected to be paved by this time next year. The White Pine Trail has been named one of the “Top 100 Rails-to-Trails” in the United States by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. In Cadillac, the White Pine Trail also connects to a larger local trail system encircling area lakes and connecting communities.
While Cadillac has always been the northern terminus of the White Pine Trail, there had not been a marker to formally signify the start/end of the trail until now. In the planning phase as an element of Cadillac Commons since 2016, this $500,000 improvement project took just six months to complete, with work starting in April 2022. The project extended the White Pine Trail from South and Lake streets to the corner of Cass and Lake streets, anchored by a prominent trailhead entryway structure matching the design features of other Cadillac Commons sites. Adorning the structure is the clock tower previously located at the corner of Mitchell and Cass streets, now the location of the Cadillac Lofts. The trailhead includes a parking area, benches, bike racks, bicycle repair station and map kiosks with information about the trail and Cadillac, with QR codes for more information.

“This trail is an amazing resource, and we’re extremely excited about this project,” said Cadillac Rotarian Mark Lagerwey at the ribbon-cutting event, who coordinated the Rotary Club of Cadillac’s White Pine Ride Oct. 1. “The Rotary Club has been involved in this for a really long time, and it’s because we’re passionate about supporting the community. Patience pays off – it takes time to get these projects finished.”

Cadillac was named a Pure Michigan® Trail Town in April 2022, one of three Michigan cities to receive the designation this year (in addition to Big Rapids and Elk Rapids), for offering “quality trail experiences that rank among the best of the best in the state,” according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Cadillac is a year-round destination with trail activities for all seasons, offering trail connectivity for snowmobilers, bikers and walkers to many southern communities along the White Pine Trail. Cadillac is also a short drive from Big M trails, the Cadillac Pathway and other recreational opportunities in Manistee National Forest.

CADILLAC DEDICATES NORTHERN TERMINUS OF WHITE PINE TRAIL. The White Pine Trailhead also is Feature Element of Cadillac Commons, a Multi-Year Downtown Placemaking Project 

Cadillac Commons Expands with Trailhead

The idea for Cadillac Commons was borne out of an MIplace Partnership with the Michigan Municipal League in 2014 to make the downtown’s previous Heritage Plaza a more inviting place for visitors and residents while showcasing Cadillac’s distinctive features. The PlacePlan took community input, design ideas, and a study of the area’s assets to make a customized plan for downtown Cadillac that led to the creation of Cadillac Commons – developed to be an attractive, year-round destination and downtown hub connecting businesses on Mitchell Street (Cadillac’s main street) with Lake Cadillac for seasonal events and other gatherings. The City of Cadillac hired Prein&Newhof to complete the site design and development for the Commons elements and manage the general contractor. Cadillac City Manager Marcus Peccia said, “Cadillac is very fortunate to have so many interested people and organizations that came together for the purposes of improving our community. This public gathering space further helps us achieve the goals of our city and is another example of the positive things that can be done when people come together.”

Following are the other four elements comprising Cadillac Commons in addition to the White Pine Trailhead, in order from the first completed:

The Pavilion – The Cadillac Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion has been a focal point on downtown Cadillac’s lakeshore for more than 25 years. After a successful community crowdfunding campaign in 2016, the renovated space boasts a state-of-the-art sound system, accommodations for performers, a green seating area and new bathroom facility.

The Plaza – The parking lot and alley west of the Mitchell Street businesses was reconfigured to become the Plaza, a pedestrian-friendly zone offering a multi-use, multi-seasonal space for public events and gatherings. Amenities include a children’s splash pad, art-inspired benches, overhead lighting and shaded seating in the summer, along with an outdoor gas fireplace and skating rink during the winter. The Plaza was completed in September 2016.

The Market – The Market at Cadillac Commons is a 6,000-square-foot, pavilion-style covered structure between the GQT Cadillac 4 movie theater and the After 26 Depot Cafe. This multi-purpose facility is home to community markets and events, including the Cadillac Farmers Market. It can also be rented for events. Groundbreaking took place in September 2017, and it was completed in September 2018.

The Park – The City Park has been an integral part of the community for several generations – home of the Shay Locomotive, a permanent display of Cadillac’s rich logging history, and the memorial fountain that is lit in the evenings during the summer. The park received a new archway at the entrance and a renovation of the locomotive on display, and it is a core part of the Cadillac Commons footprint.