Protecting heritage

Framed by the dazzling colors of the season, U.P. Land Conservancy safeguards natural areas

The old Marquette County Road 510 bridge is seen from the new bridge. A group of hikers explored the "bridges area" of the proposed Dead River Community Forest with the U.P. Land Conservancy Saturday evening. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

NEGAUNEE — The views from the old and new Marquette County Road 510 bridges in Negaunee Township have long been favorites of locals, and an effort is underway to keep those views available to the public in perpetuity.

The Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, which promotes healthy ecosystems and communities by providing legal protection and ecological management of conservation lands by engaging the public in the protection and enjoyment of the lands, plans to purchase roughly 186 acres near the bridge area and near Meijer to establish the Dead River Community Forest.

“A community forest is not just another nature preserve where we own the property and we control the trails and everything happening on the trails, but it’s a property that is owned by the land conservancy but is actually managed with significant and active input from the community,” said UPLC Executive Director Andrea Denham. “We’ll need volunteers, we’ll need community input for what they want to see happen on the property, whether it’s types of trails, education programs or variously what does the community want to happen out here.”

The objectives of the proposed community forest are not only to protect the land from development and provide recreation for the community, but also to engage the public in the land protection and management process, expand outdoor educational opportunities and initiate a plan to prepare the area for the current and future effects of climate change, according to the UPLC website.

The details of the proposed forest were explained by Denham during an event Saturday titled Walk and Wonder: DRCF Leaf Peepers. Denham and other conservancy staff led a group through some of the proposed trails in the bridge area. Two areas make up the proposed DRCF: the land between the old and new 510 bridges and about 25.5 acres up the Dead River; and 161 acres of land near Meijer, just north of the UPLC’s Vielmetti-Peters Conservation Reserve.

The Dead River is seen surrounded by fall color from the new County Road 510 bridge in Negaunee Township. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous area,” Denham said. “There’s waterfalls, there’s rolling hills, it’s just stunning. It’s just a little chunk of wilderness.”

Both these sections of land are slated for development or timber management within the next few years.

To preserve the views and trails this land offers, the conservancy must purchase the 161 acres of land at a cost of $300,000. If the organization is able to purchase the large parcel, the McClure Basin Association will donate the 25-acre parcel to the UPLC.

About one-third of the project cost has been raised thus far with the help of pledges from several foundations, area residents and from a $90,000 U.S. Forest Service grant. Now the UPLC has the next year and a half to raise the remaining $218,000 needed.

“So we’ve got a year and a half for input from artists, musicians, other community groups for what they’d like to see as fundraisers, but we’re hoping to host concerts out on the bridges and down on the preserve and maybe do some paint outs and that sort of thing,” Denham said. “We’ve got all sorts of stuff planned to raise the funds.”

Members of the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy and attendees of the orgainization's event Walk and Wonder: Dead River Community Forest Leaf Peepers stand on the old CR 510 Bridge and discuss the surrounding area the conservancy is looking to purchase to protect the land from development. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

To Denham, protecting this land is about ensuring one of the most beautiful spots in the area available for the public to enjoy in the years to come.

“We’re watching our industry switch, watching our demographics change and as the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, it is our mission to make sure that our community has that deep connection to land that we have always cherished so deeply — our ability to walk out into the woods, into the wilderness, our ability to come up to big bridges and look at the view and not have to stare at other people’s houses,” Denham said.

To get involved in the proposed DRCF project she recommends attending a community input session, volunteering, exploring the area with the UPLC on its public hikes and staying up to date on input sessions and other project news through email uplc@uplandconservancy.org, on Facebook at UP Land Conservancy and online at uplandconservancy.org.

Hikers of the Leaf Peepers event walked through proposed DRCF trails to the top of the new CR 510 bridge where a full array of fall color could be seen among the tree line and along the Dead River. The old CR 510 bridge was also seen from the high point of the hike and was where the event concluded. Both points offer the best fall color viewing in the area, Denham said.

She hopes that through exploring the land others are able to appreciate the land the UPLC and the 20 other organizations working on the DRCF project are trying to protect.

“I hope that people who are here on the hike (Saturday), some of these folks who are here, this is the very first time that they’ve ever seen these views from the 510 bridge, and I hope that they can see the value in protecting this area,” Denham said. “That they can see the value in opening up the community for access and for recreation and active management for the sake of the community.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.


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