Big plans for Big Bay area trail

Coty Sorby is the new Powell Township parks and trails manager. He is shown by the Powell Township Recreation Area trailhead, which can be accessed off Marquette County Road 510. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

BIG BAY — Outdoors-minded people who think they have exhausted most of their options to hit the trail in Marquette County should, perhaps, think of Powell Township.

Coty Sorby, of Big Bay, is the new Powell Township parks and trails manager, a new grant-funded, part-time job that allows him to nurture trails.

“It’s kind of work in progress, identifying needs that we can meet and looking at how it corresponds with the five-year plan that the township Parks and Rec Committee has come up with and what the township has approved,” Sorby said.

He said that essentially, he maintains Powell Township Recreation Area trails, which is on one side of County Road 550. The Noquemenon Trail Network is helping the township build five more miles of trails on the other side of the road.

Sorby also pointed out that he will work on community engagement and letting people know these trails exist — to “try to capture some of that same energy that Marquette County as a whole has been really tapping into” and attract not only tourists but the local community.

“There’s a big health culture,” Sorby said, “and there’s a lot of people that want to come out here and ride, and we have a big snowmobiling, dirt-biking, all-terrain vehicle community up here.

“We have a good lake life community up here, but one of the big things that’s been missing has been trails to hike and bike.”

A big proponent of Powell Township trails, local resident Sven Gonstead, agreed that the trails provide healthy amenities.

“It’s really to promote a better, strong quality of life for local residents,” he said.

And those benefits, Gonstead pointed out, could bring in new families to visit and live in Big Bay.

The Big Bay Pathway, which is near downtown Big Bay, has been groomed for cross-country skiing and has a strong community engagement with people coming from all over to use those trails, he said.

Sorby, who has a degree in environmental studies and sustainability from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, wants that to happen with the PTRA.

“I talk to a lot of folks, and people are looking for an excuse to come up here and spend time in Big Bay, but not everybody rides ATVs and that sort of thing,” Sorby said. “So, we’re kind of just filling a niche that is obvious.”

A bigger plan is to connect a disc golf course with the PTRA system, Burns Landing, downtown Big Bay and other trails — to create what he called a “lively, diverse trail network” that is interspersed with snowmobiles, ATVs and the dirt bikes.

Again, the goal is to widen recreation opportunities.

“You can come up to Big Bay and do everything,” Sorby said. “You can go swimming. You can go hiking. You can pick berries. You can go to the mountain peak.”

He expected the PTRA network to have 15 miles of trails by the end of the year, and probably 20 miles by 2023.

The PTRA trailhead still is under construction, with a roof and walls yet to be installed. Yet it already is scenic and attractively rustic, and is surrounded by striped maples and other trees. It also leads to attractions such as the Sweet Pine Trail and the Ladyslipper Trail.

Sorby said that when finished, the structure will provide people with a spot to get out of the rain. They also can donate to the cause via a QR code that will be placed at the trailhead.

There already is a lot of interest in Big Bay area trails.

The Big Bay Trails Club, according to its Facebook page, is focusing on not just the development of new trails at the PTRA in partnership with the NTN but also ongoing maintenance of the new system “and, of course, a place to connect for group rides, hikes, runs and trail activities” in Big Bay.

Work bees are scheduled, but so are “play” events. For example, participants meet at the new Powell Township Recreation Area trailhead at 6:30 Friday nights to ride and hike. The County Road 510 trail entrance that includes the trailhead is located across from the Thomas Rock parking lot.

Sorby posted on the club’s Facebook page that eventually the trail network will connect both sides of County Road 550 and up to Thomas Rock and even to the Big Bay Pathway to the Hidden Grin loop.

Sorby gave a shout out to the “people who ride and walk” the trails as well as the Powell Township Parks and Recreation Committee, NTN and, of course, Gonstead.

“There are a lot of good things happening and beautiful people helping to make it a reality,” Sorby said.

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


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