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From school to skiing

New trail connects Powell Township School to Big Bay Pathway

Powell Township students and community members hike a new trail that connects the school to the Big Bay Pathway. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Monday at the trail. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

By CHRISTIE BLECK

Journal Staff Writer

BIG BAY — It takes a Big Bay village to raise a child.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Monday to celebrate a new trail connecting Powell Township School to the Big Bay Pathway.

“It’s really a special and beautiful little trail,” said Lucy Wilcox, a member of the township’s parks and recreation committee.

Above, Lucy Wilcox, a member of Powell Township Parks and Recreation, stands at the beginning of a new connector trail that allows Powell Township School students, as well as the community, to connect to the Big Bay Pathway. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Monday at the trail. Below, Powell Township students and community members hike the new trail. (Journal photos by Christie Bleck)

The trail, she noted, will allow the students to ski right out of the school and onto the pathway.

Volunteers were key to the effort, Wilcox said. Without the Powell Township volunteers who worked to build the trail as well as a bridge, the project wouldn’t have been possible.

The Big Pathway is an affiliate of the Noquemanon Trail Network, which Wilcox called a major partner in the project.

Other support, she said, has come from Marquette County, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and others.

The new trail, which begins behind the school by the tennis courts, isn’t just for students either.

“It’s going to be a hiking trail year-round,” Wilcox said. “It’s going to be a ski and snowshoe trail for the winter. It’s for anyone who comes — citizens, tourists.”

The connector trail also is for people of varying abilities.

Wilcox noted the trail, which is about a quarter mile, connects to a loop that’s walkable for people who don’t want to hike a long distance.

“Then if you want to go a long distance, you got it,” she said.”

Collaboration was important in the project, she said.

“There’s so many pieces, so many skills sets, and there’s money, there’s equipment that you have,” Wilcox said. “So, NTN shares equipment with us. We’ve had grants to purchase some equipment.

“We’re just a small little township. There are only, like, 400 people who live in Big Bay, and without help, we just couldn’t do it all.”

A trail tends to become overgrown and then disappear if not maintained.

So, Wilcox said volunteers also will maintain the trail, helping with the needed grooming in the winter as well as the brushing and cutting necessary in the spring and summer.

Sven Gonstead, chairman of Powell Township Parks and Recreation and an NTN board member, said the connector trail has been about three years in the making, although the entire system has been worked on for about 17 years.

Like Wilcox, he appreciates the community support.

“It’s incredible,” Gonstead said. “It’s been absolutely critical, and we’re grateful all way back to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.”

KBIC, he said, helped with a grant to acquire grooming equipment. Eagle Mine too had been involved with providing materials for the bridge and other things.

He also credited the “volunteer corps” in Big Bay.

“They’ve been all fantastic,” Gonstead said.

He believes the kids having easy access to trail is important.

“This is really a great partnership,” Gonstead said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it couldn’t be more true in this case, just to be able to work with the school, to be able to provide this opportunity for the kids to get out and explore nature and get a little exercise.”

The trail has a cathedral-like feel to it, with tall hemlocks lining the walkway. It’s also surrounded by a mixed forest with maples growing in the area, plus there’s a small creek.

First-grader Emma De May was one of the students who walked the snowy trail on Monday as part of the short, mini-field trip.

“I really like it here,” she said, noting she had visited the trail before. “It’s pretty.”

Christie Bleck c

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