Projects enhance outdoor recreation

MARQUETTE — The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board has recommended $40.3 million in grant recommendations for outdoor recreation development and land acquisition projects to the state Legislature, which include a variety of local projects.

This funding will support a variety of outdoor recreation improvements including expanded public access at popular fishing destinations, additional snowmobile and multi-use trail easements that give users broader access to more trails, facility and playground improvements at urban parks, planning and construction for new trails and connectors, trail-resurfacing projects and wildlife and habitat enhancement projects.

One acquisition project recommendation is for a Longyear Multi-use Trail Easement in Marquette County for $340,000. The project would entail acquisition of a 30-foot wide, 3.95-mile permanent easement for a section of trail located on property owned by Longyear Realty.

This easement will provide for snowmobile and non-motorized recreational use and will provide connections to other trail systems in the area. This acquisition will include the construction of one large culvert and one bridge and new trail construction, provided by the owner.

Other acquisition projects in the Upper Peninsula include a 100-foot wide corridor for about 12 miles of the former Canadian Pacific Railroad property in Chippewa County for $193,000, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources project; the Southern Beltline Trail acquisition for $54,300 that entails about 33 acres of railroad grade that connects Norrie Park and Miners Memorial Heritage Park in the city of Ironwood; three 30-foot wide permanent easements on Molpus, Penegor and Keweenaw Land properties for snowmobile, ORV and non-motorized trail use for $56,000, a DNR project in Houghton County; and a DNR project for $82,500 that involves acquiring multiple permanent easements totaling up to 5.4 miles in Keweenaw County for multi-use recreational trails.

– In Ontonagon County, a DNR project for $206,800 would involve the acquisition of 30-foot wide permanent easements for multi-use trail on Weyerhaeuser property, while another DNR project, the GMO Multi-use Trail Easement for $49,200, would involve the acquisition of a 30-foot wide permanent easement on commercial land owned by GMO.

Local development project recommendations are:

– Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority, Iron Ore Heritage Trail Shelters and Fishing Access, $163,600, for development of two new protective weather shelters and three fishing platforms along the 47-mile trail. Trail users are especially vulnerable to weather events in certain remote segments. The first shelter would be located at the Pine Hill Pond in Negaunee Township, a secluded area between the LS&I’s railroad scales and rock bluff, with no access to shelter within three miles. The second location is within the expansive Carp River Marsh and would include the weather shelter in addition to three fishing platforms along the Carp River. Trail users will be sheltered from inclement weather in addition to providing trail-side seating and picnic places with opportunities for wildlife and bird viewing, as well as fishing access.

– City of Ishpeming, Lake Bancroft Park and IOHT Trailhead, $300,000, for development of a new trailhead at Lake Bancroft Park for the IOHT. The project will make improvements to the trail itself, add a new picnic pavilion and install landscaping and outdoor plaza areas. New signage to identify the park and trailhead will also be included. The new park improvements will provide an opportunity to use both the natural resources within the city, including the IOHT and Lake Bancroft, as well as provide easy access to the adjacent Cliffs Shaft Mining Museum and downtown Ishpeming.

– City of Marquette, Williams Park universal access and athletic court renovation, $112,000, for development and improvements to make all parts of the park accessible at the park. The tiered park has two main levels. The lower level features a playground while the upper level contains a basketball court, tennis courts and a new restroom. The project will provide access from the adjacent parking into the park to all amenities, and connect the upper and lower levels. The existing tennis courts at the park will also be resurfaced as part of the project. The city’s five-year parks and recreation master plan lists all elements of this project as priorities.

– City of Negaunee, Negaunee Jackson Mine Park IOHT Trailhead and Pavilion, $291,100, for development at Jackson Mine Park along the IOHT will improve the regional trailhead and community park within the city. Park improvements will provide barrier-free access to the IOHT, educational and navigational signage, additional parking, storm water management, LED lighting and improved traffic flow to enhance pedestrian safety. A pavilion, which will include restrooms, will serve as a gathering place for community activities, including festivals, family events and educational programs. This project aligns with the goals and priority project type of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan for developing trailheads throughout Michigan’s regional trail system.

– Marquette County, Sugarloaf Mountain Natural Area Enhancement Project, $45,000, to improve the park’s visitor experience at the scenic park. Sugarloaf is a popular destination that features a 470-foot climb to the summit with 360-degree views of Lake Superior and the surrounding landscape. The existing parking area, which also serves as a trailhead for the Iron Belle/North Country Trail that traverses the park, will be improved with added picnic tables, bicycle racks and a new solar-powered waste collection and compaction system. The waste system will alert maintenance staff when the remote location needs to be serviced. A webcam installed at the observation deck will provide broader access to Sugarloaf’s panoramic views.

– Marquette Charter Township, U.S. 41 Underpass and Regional Trail Connector Project, $225,000, to develop a trail and underpass in one of the U.P.’s most urbanized regions surrounding the city of Marquette. The intersection of a high-traffic corridor with an increasingly popular recreational trail network has created a safety hazard for visitors and residents alike, especially for winter snowmobile crossings. The project will provide a safe, sub-surface highway crossing beneath the heavily traveled US-41 corridor, connecting multiple trail routes in Marquette County including the IOHT, which connects to the Noquemanon Trail Network, Iron Belle/North Country Trail and the Little Presque Isle Trail System. The project will also be funded through a Transportation Alternatives Program grant through the Michigan Department of Transportation.

– Marquette County, DNR, Marquette Shooting Range Development, $225,000, for a new public shooting range. The range will meet National Rifle Association and Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and offer a safe, accessible shooting opportunity for residents and visitors. This range will be the first public DNR range in the U.P. Schoolcraft County development projects are DNR efforts for $210,000 to replace three bridges on Snowmobile Trail No. 8, and $300,000 for Sunken Lake bridge replacement.

– In Baraga County, a DNR project involves development and improvement of a bridge on the Baraga-Arnheim Trail.

– Other U.P. development projects include a new playlot at Lake Antoine Park in Dickinson County for $30,000; Hancock-to-Calumet regional trail development, a DNR project in Houghton County, for $300,000; a Heritage Trail extension in Crystal Falls Township for $300,000; and the Iron Belle Trail-Bissell Creek Culvert replacement, a DNR project, for $100,000.

“The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has a proven record of supporting expanded opportunities for more Michiganders and tourists to experience quality public outdoor recreation,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a news release.

The board recommended a total of $40.3 million for projects in 2018, including $19 million in recreation development and $21.3 million in land acquisition projects.

Of the $21.3 million recommended to fund acquisition projects, $12.3 million would be awarded to local units of government, while the remaining $9 million would be awarded to the DNR. Of the $19 million recommended to fund development grants, $15.2 million would support 72 local government projects and $3.8 million would support 17 DNR projects.

The board considered a total of 166 applications seeking $76.1 million in funding. In a competitive process, all eligible applications were evaluated on scoring criteria developed by the board.

A restricted fund established in 1976 to support public acquisition of lands for conservation and outdoor recreation, as well as public outdoor recreation development projects, the Trust Fund is financed through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals such as oil and natural gas.

“Every Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant has a direct, positive impact on healthier lifestyles, outdoor recreation opportunities and regional economies,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh.

The board’s recommendations will go to the state Legislature for review as part of the appropriations process. Upon approval, the Legislature will forward a bill to the governor for his signature.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.