MARQUETTE - The Marquette City Commission voiced approval Monday for a Noquemanon Trail Network project that would allow the construction of trailhead facilities on city property adjacent to M-553.
That land is a part of the Heartwood Forestland, originally 2,400 acres of property purchased by the city in 2005.
Under the plan presented to the commission by Lyle VanderSchaaf, who sits on the NTN board and is president of the group's single-track committee, the NTN would expand on its existing trailhead, which is located along the east side of M-553 between Division Street and Mount Marquette Road.
The Noquemanon Trail Network is planning a $70,000 project to expand its trailhead facilities along M-553. That trailhead provides access to the NTN’S South Trails, seen here. (Journal file photo)
Plans include the construction of a 24-foot by 32-foot open-air structure, as well as the creation of a gravel parking lot to fit 100 cars, picnic facilities and signage consistent with other city signs.
"In all, the NTN would be looking at committing close to $70,000 in value to the city with this project," said VanderSchaaf.
He said the NTN plans to begin fundraising for the project, but added that the group was ready to commit $10,000 from next year's operating budget and hoped to acquire some amount grant and in-kind funding.
In turn, the city would be expected to provide the property, zoning assistance, portable bathrooms and some basic maintenance and would work out code and easement issues with the NTN.
"We are not asking to buy any of this land. We are not asking to take control of this land from the city," VanderSchaaf said. "We are basically asking to improve the footprint that there already is a trailhead on."
In April, the commission denied a similar proposal, in which the NTN was looking to purchase the trailhead area and 30 acres of nearby unlisted land for about $1,700 per acre. At that time, the group told VanderSchaaf that the process should be more public, and voted unanimously to appoint the three-person committee to sit down with the group and work out a new proposal. From there, the commission said, they could schedule a public hearing to facilitate further discussion.
Commissioner Sara Cambensy said she was concerned the commission had not yet done due dilligence in considering the future of the Heartwood Land on a whole, and had not followed the process laid out in April.
"I am 100 percent for the project," she said. "All I'm saying is can we slow down, say we are interested in the project, but go through the right channels, get our ducks in a row?"
Ultimately, the commission supported Cambensy's view, voting unanimously to move ahead with the NTN plan, pending reviews by the city planning commission and city departments.
"I think this is a great idea," Commissioner Mike Coyne said. "I think it's the first step of something great happening in the Heartwood Forest that would lead to recreation as a driver, and then controlling development. If development occurs first, recreation is going to take a hit."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.