To the Journal editor:
The Dec. 30 issue of The Mining Journal featured a front page article about problems the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has in funding the maintenance and grooming of state forest cross-country ski trails.
Although DNR started the ski trail program nearly 30 years ago as a state forest recreation opportunity, they did so without allocating department funds for developing, maintaining and grooming the trails. Instead they relied on General Fund monies and pay-pipe donations.
Unfortunately, pay-pipe donations never amounted to a significant sum and General Fund monies have dried up. So now the DNR uses a federal recreation grant to contract out grooming of the three most heavily used trails in the state, while volunteers and direct donations are used for grooming 11 others. All trail maintenance is left to volunteer groups such as the Friends of Blueberry Ridge, and development is practically non-existent.
We, the board members of the Friends of Blueberry Ridge, had an idea for more dependable funding for the trails. To that end, we worked with Rep. Steve Lindberg of Marquette to help draft a cross-country ski pass bill that was introduced in the Michigan Legislature in May 2010 by Rep. Lindberg.
Regrettably, the House Appropriations Committee did not have time to consider it and the bill died at the end of the legislative session. Rep. Lindberg plans to reintroduce the bill in the upcoming session of the legislature.
The bill, as drafted, would require that skiers carry a ski pass, similar to a hunting or fishing license, when using state forest cross-country trails such as Blueberry Ridge. Statewide season ski passes, good at any state forest cross-country ski trail, would sell for $20, and daily passes for $5. Monies received would be dedicated to maintaining, grooming and improving the ski trails. Passes likely would be available through the many hunting and fishing license dealers throughout the state.
We have gained solid support for this bill from cross-country ski businesses, the Marquette County Commission, the DNR's Western U.P. Citizens Advisory Council, the U.P. Sportsmen's Alliance and many other groups and individuals. It is important to note that supporters include hunting and fishing groups, which historically have contributed the bulk of funds that have indirectly benefited skiers and others.
We ask you to indicate your support for this ski pass bill by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marge Forslin, Cary Gottlieb, Paul Hannuksela,
Friends of Blueberry Ridge Board