MARQUETTE - An official relationship has been established between the city and the North Country National Scenic Trail Association.
Unofficially, though, one has existed for several years with the 4,600-mile trail running from New York to North Dakota including a long stretch through the Upper Peninsula. It winds its way through the Marquette area, including along the city's multi-use bike path and such diverse spots as Lakenenland in Chocolay Township and Little Presque Isle in Marquette Township.
The North Country Trail Association's local chapter, the North Country Trail Hikers, has been active in using, maintaining and promoting the trail.
This sign along the city of Marquette’s bike path informs hikers on the North Country National Scenic Trail of distances to various features along the trail. The city has been designated a Trail Town by the North Country Trail Association. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)
On Monday, its efforts reached a milestone when the Marquette City Commission agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding between the city and the NCTA , basically supporting the "Trail Town" concept and giving Marquette that new designation.
"We're into biking," Commissioner Don Ryan said. 'We're into hiking. We're into everything trails stand for."
A Trail Town is a community through which the North Country Trail passes that supports hikers with services, promotes the trail to its citizens and embraces the trail as a resource to be protected.
"Marquette now joins a growing number of NCTA Trail Town communities through which the North Country National Scenic Trail travels," said Lorana Jinkerson, NCTH president. "This is especially important here in the central U.P. where hikers heading west do not go through another town until they hit Ironwood, 150 miles to our west."
For long-distance hikers, Jinkerson said having a place to buy supplies, wash laundry and take a break for a day or two is important.
"Now they will know that Marquette welcomes and supports them," Jinkerson said.
The purpose of the Trail Town agreement is to help the city and the NCTA accomplish mutually beneficial objectives, such as educating local businesses about the value of the trail as an economic resource and increasing use and awareness of the trail and attracting more tourists.
Also, the agreement could enable the city and NCTA to apply for grants related to tourism, economic development and trail-infrastructure support.
The NCTA will promote the city as a Trail Town through its website and other media, offer outreach materials to the community, provide support at local festivals to stir interest in the trail, provide occasional guided hikes based in the city, provide trail signage at designated spots and be involved in other activities.
The city will include the trail and the NCTA in promotional materials as allowable by city policy, install and maintain the Trail Town signs and urban trail markers, help promote events such as National Trails Day and other supportive services.
The NCTH organizes trail crew members and "trail adopters" who take part in work days and maintain the trails.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Stonehouse acknowledged volunteers' work in bringing the Trail Town designation to fruition.
"It's a really nice thing to see these things moving on with the efforts of volunteers behind them," Stonehouse said.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.