Opening of new non-motorized trail celebrated in Keweenaw County

Lori Hauswirth, executive director of the Copper Harbor Trail Club, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Upper Peninsula trails coordinator Ron Yesney pose for a photo Thursday along the Keweenaw Point Trail at High Rock Bay. A new 6-mile section of the trail recently opened. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan DNR)

COPPER HARBOR — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Copper Harbor Trails Club celebrated the opening of a new 6-mile section of the Keweenaw Point Trail Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held southeast of Copper Harbor at High Rock Bay.

Work on this second phase of a more than 30-mile backcountry non-motorized, multi-use trail began in 2015. The new Mandan Road to High Rock Bay trail segment connects the scenic point at High Rock Bay with Fort Wilkins Historic State Park.

“Completion of this portion of trail puts another piece in place toward completing the entire Keweenaw Point Trail,” said Lori Hauswirth, executive director of the Copper Harbor Trails Club, in a news release. “This trail will not only provide great non-motorized recreation opportunities, but also a boost to the local economies of the Keweenaw.”

Funding for this $83,000 phase of the project was funded through private donations, fundraising events and the Steven C. Leuthold Family Foundation.

Development of the trail has been in partnership with the Copper Harbor Trails Club, which will manage the trail. The DNR was involved with planning, approvals and other tasks.

“We are just thrilled to be working in partnership with the Copper Harbor Trails Club,” said Ron Yesney, DNR Upper Peninsula trails coordinator. “They are a great organization. They get stuff done.”

The entire Keweenaw Point Trail Project — a loop from High Rock Bay to Montreal — will highlight points of interest and the beautiful landscapes located near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The new trail will also fill a need for a backcountry single-track trail open to all non-motorized uses, and add to the existing Copper Harbor Trail System.

Single-track trails require mountain bikers to ride in single file and conform to the natural environment, with routing around rocks, trees and bushes.

“This new trail segment will help provide users with a remote trail experience,” Yesney said. “Connecting to the state park at Fort Wilkins will also make campgrounds available along the route, allowing users to plan longer trips to explore the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.”

In 2003, the state of Michigan, in a partnership with the Nature Conservancy, acquired 6,275 acres of land in the area to preserve public access and prevent private development.

The acquisition boosted the state’s land ownership near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula to 8,387 acres.

In the months that followed, the DNR convened the Keweenaw Point Citizen Advisory Council, which collected the views of a wide range of those interested in trail use and development in the area.

In autumn 2004, the council’s report was issued. One of the primary recommendations of the group was for the DNR to work with local groups to design, develop and maintain trails to connect non-motorized trails already established in the area, including the Copper Harbor, Estivant Pines and Horseshoe Harbor trails.

The Copper Harbor Trails Club has been the lead group in partnering with the DNR to develop the Keweenaw Point Trail. This larger trail will be a shoreline trail that runs from Mandan Road at the Montreal River, south to the river’s mouth at Lake Superior, then east along the shoreline, past High Rock Bay to Schlatter Lake, north to Horseshoe Harbor to reconnect with Mandan Road south of Lake Fanny Hooe.

The first phase of the trail’s development, which covered 2.5 miles, was completed in 2015. That project, running from Manganese Road to Mandan Road, consists of rugged single-track trail near Lake Fanny Hooe.

Funding for the initial $83,000 construction phase was provided by grants from the DNR, the Plum Creek Foundation and the Steven C. Leuthold Foundation and Copper Harbor Trail Club fundraising efforts.

Phase two consists of a combination of existing two-tracks with new single-track construction.

The trail section runs east along Mandan Road, then north on Horseshoe Harbor Road, east again and then south on Camp Manitou Road. At this point, the new single-track segment of the trail was built to High Rock Bay.

A proposed third phase of construction would run from High Rock Bay south and east to Montreal. The trail route has been approved by the DNR. Some funding for construction has been secured through a DNR recreational trails program grant. Additional money needs to be procured. The estimated cost for this phase of trail construction is $497,000.

“We are excited to celebrate this latest accomplishment in the development of the Keweenaw Point Trail today,” said John Pepin, deputy public information officer. “With this milestone we move one step closer to completion of this great new trail, another testament to Michigan’s national reputation as The Trails State.”