The M-22 highway is an iconic symbol of this beautiful region of Michigan and has long served as a stimulus for growth, development and tourism in Northwest Michigan. In fact, the M-22 highway was constructed in July of 1919 and has been around for about one hundred years.
Many people do not realize that M-22 is actually split into two separately recognized byways. The northern part of M-22, from the Benzie-Leelanau County Line to M-72 in Traverse City, was designated an official byway in 2002 by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and named the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route. The southern section of M-22, from US-31 to the Benzie-Leelanau County line, was designated in 2016 as the M-22 Pure Michigan Byway.
Any segment of the State Trunkline Highway System that shows scenic, historic or recreational value is eligible to be classified as a Pure Michigan Byway. Pure Michigan is used as a statewide campaign to promote tourism, travel, economic growth, education and an overall increase in the quality of life in Michigan. Starting as the Michigan Heritage Route in 1993, the name changed to Pure Michigan Byway in 2014. The first two routes declared as official Michigan byways were the Monroe Historic Heritage Route and Copper Country Trail in 1995.
Not just any road can be become a Pure Michigan Byway. In order to be an official byway, a sponsor must submit a proposed byway for designation through the MDOT. Meeting several specific criteria, the route must be:
—Part of the state trunkline system, meaning it needs to be an "M", “US”, or “I” highway.
—Supported by local governments along the route
—Shown to have one or more intrinsic qualities, such as scenic, historic or recreational value
Essentially, the sponsor must make a solid argument as to what is special about the highway and why it should be recognized as a Pure Michigan Byway.
While this process can take several years to complete, the benefits that come with the designation of a Pure Michigan Byway are well worth the wait. The designation of a highway brings in visitors and businesses which increases economic growth within the local regions. It also creates awareness for Michigan’s precious resources and works to preserve them. A Pure Michigan Byway also generates a sense of community that unites the area and builds strong connections through regions all over Michigan.
The Pure Michigan campaign has enhanced the image of the state of Michigan, making it a greater place to live and visit. M-22 is a proud member of this wonderful system of byways all over the state that display and maintain the cultural, historical, recreational and beautiful parts of Michigan.