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ORV route through Heartwood Forestland to move forward

City commission OKs action

Standing from left, Ron Yesney and Matt Torreano of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are pictured at a recent meeting of the Marquette City Commission as they demonstrate signage that could be used along an off-road vehicle route through the westernmost portion of the Heartwood Forestland in the city of Marquette. The commission approved ORV access on the city-owned property with the installation of gates and signs to help ensure the vehicles stay on the designated route. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — A proposed off-road vehicle route through the westernmost portion of Marquette’s Heartwood Forestland will move forward with the Oct. 28 approval of the Marquette City Commission.

The trail will be “completely separate from silent sport trails” and would allow ORVs to pass through the Marquette area for the Upper Peninsula-wide ORV trail that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is working toward, according to city officials. The DNR and the Trail Riders Enthusiast Alliance of Marquette County will be partnering with the city on the route.

The project stems from the alliance bringing a proposal to the Marquette Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in 2016 for an ORV trailhead within the Heartwood Forestland that would allow more access to the Upper Peninsula’s ORV trail network from within the city limits and help connect portions of the trail network. At that time, the issue was tabled until the revision of the city’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan was completed.

On Aug. 5, the plan was presented to the city commission, but the commission directed city staff to continue working with ORV user groups to create a more full-fledged proposal that included strategies to ensure ORVs would stay on the designated trail.

City staff then worked with the DNR and Semco Energy Gas Co. on a plan for ORV access in the area, since Semco was working on its Marquette Connector Pipeline nearby.

Side-by-side utility vehicles and riders are pictured. (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

“Semco would be installing gates as shown on the map that would prevent ORVs from entering the rest of the property and causing damage to the Semco gas line,” city notes state.

Furthermore, “the DNR would be installing signage indicating motorized use outside of the permitted trail is prohibited,” according to city notes.

Access through the westernmost portion of the Heartwood Forestland would create a designated ORV trail from the crossroads of County Road 480 and M-553 into Negaunee, DNR representatives told commissioners, emphasizing this is an important step for trails throughout the U.P., as it would provide a connection from the Michigamme area to Powers.

“There’s benefits to the city of Marquette and there’s benefits to all the surrounding communities which these trails touch,” said Matt Torreano of the DNR, noting the DNR looks at the growing use of ORVs as an economic development opportunity for rural communities that see ORV tourism.

Furthermore, DNR U.P. Trails Coordinator Ron Yesney said a trail counter has indicated ORV use is already occurring on this trail.

“I think we can manage this corridor very efficiently. We can do it well, and I think by doing so, it will be a better alternative to what we have now, which is unmanaged use of ORVs in the summertime,” Yesney said. “So we’re just simply asking to manage this system, manage it well, work with our partners.”

While the city commission had previously indicated it would like to see barriers put in place to prevent ORVs from leaving the designated trail areas, Yesney and Torreano said the DNR would prefer to start with signage and install barriers later as needed, as they believe signs would make it clear to users and law enforcement where ORV access is and is not permitted.

However, commissioners emphasized gates would need to be part of the plan and voted to approve the access with DNR signage and gates to be installed by Semco Energy Gas Co.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.