Join the Michigan Beachtowns Association, Michigan Department of Transportation and Travel Michigan for the official designation of the West Michigan Pike as the state’s newest Michigan Byway. The designation will be on Monday, July 25th at 10am at Heritage Landing in Muskegon.
The historic West Michigan Pike comprised a variety of different roadways along Michigan’s West Coast, including US 12, The Red Arrow Highway, The Blue Star Highway, South Shore Drive, A2, M120, Grand Haven Road, US 31, Whitehall Road, and main thoroughfares and side streets through the cities along the original route.
For the purpose of the proposed West Michigan Pike Heritage Route, the designated route will follow the trunklines listed below:
- Interstate 94
- Interstate 196/US-31
- Interstate 196 BUS./M-140
- BUS. US-31
This route passes through the historic Lake Michigan communities of New Buffalo, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, South Haven, Douglas/Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Whitehall/Montague, the Silver Lake Sand Dunes area, and Pentwater.
Along this route – and with interpretive materials outlined in the forthcoming Corridor Management Plan and developed specifically for visitors to the Pike – Byway designation will allow visitors to discover some of Michigan’s most historically significant, culturally active, and naturally beautiful areas of the state.
While the modern-day, proposed West Michigan Pike Byway will follow state trunklines, it is the intent of the corridor management entity, the Michigan Beachtown Association, to sign both the Byway Route and the Historic Route through each Beachtown community, giving potential visitors two opportunities to experience the West Michigan Pike, depending on their time and interests.
The Byway Route will be a direct route linking each of the Pike communities, and a second, more leisurely Historic Route will be independently signed for “Road Trippers” and history buffs.
Please RSVP to 231-724-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
History of the West Michigan Pike
After the lumber companies moved out of Michigan in the 1890s and the automobile came into fashion in the early 1900s, roads began to be built across Michigan for this new mode of transportation.
The West Michigan Pike was one of the nation’s earliest paved, “tourist” roadways, developed between 1911 and 1922, and designed to draw visitors from Chicago to the resorts and beachtowns of West Michigan. Running from New Buffalo to Mackinaw City, the West Michigan Pike was part of Michigan’s first trunkline system (M-11), and the first federal highway system (US 12).
The Lincoln Highway (ca. 1913) and Dixie Highway (ca. 1915), preceded development of the West Michigan Pike, a portion of which was the northwestern leg of the Dixie Highway. The Lincoln and Dixie Highways were the brainchild of Carl G. Fisher, owner of Prest-O-Lite, an early automobile headlight manufacturer. The Lincoln Highway was an east-west route from Times Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, and the Dixie Highway was the north-south route, from Sault Saint Marie, MI to Miami, FL.
While the Lincoln Highway and Dixie Highway were designed mainly for commerce and the movement of people to larger metropolitan areas, the West Michigan Pike was one of America’s earliest “tourist” roadways, because its specific purpose was to draw visitors into West Michigan’s lakeshore communities. The State of Michigan undertook an aggressive reforestation effort to beautify the roadsides along the lakeshore and protect the sand dunes and productive farmlands of the region.
Importantly, the communities along the route developed resorts, hotels, restaurants and leisure and cultural attractions to lure Chicagoans to the West Michigan shoreline.