County board looks at parking expansion for Sugarloaf area

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners at its 6 p.m. meeting today will consider amending a contract with Sanders and Czapski Associates to include the survey and design of a parking expansion at the Sugarloaf Mountain Natural Area along County Road 550.

The meeting will be held in room 231 of the Henry A. Skewis Annex of the Marquette County Courthouse, located along the 200 block of West Baraga Avenue in Marquette.

County staff has recommended amending the contract as the company is currently under contract with the county as its prime professional for an enhancement project to be completed this year at Sugarloaf Mountain, according to board documents.

The current project will place interpretive trail signage, picnic areas, a waste and recycling collection system and a summit webcam in the area. Amending the contract to include the parking lot survey and design for $7,550 will “expedite this work and capitalize on services already being provided,” states a letter from Thyra Karlstrom, Marquette County interim manager of planning to Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch.

The survey and design for expanded parking is needed, as the area has received an increased number of visitors over the years, with over 47,600 in 2018. With this, overflow parking on County Road 550 has become common, “creating an unsafe situation,” Karlstrom’s letter states.

“Staff have witnessed vehicles parked along guardrails and partially in the travel lanes,” which is “dangerous as vehicles, including heavy trucks, travel at high rates of speed” with limited sight distance in the area, according to the letter. Furthermore, “visitors are not necessarily aware of the safety concern as they exit their vehicles and prepare for a hike,” the letter states.

Money has been allocated in the 2019 budget to survey and design the parking expansion at Sugarloaf, according to officials. The survey and design will result in drawings, a design narrative, an analysis of how the design meets the goals of the project and construction costs.

The board will also consider a request for an easement from Semco Energy Gas Co. to reroute a portion of the Marquette Connector Pipeline due to a “large rock obstruction,” according to board documents. The total length of the reroute is about 1,300 feet, or 1.33 acres of temporary work space and 1.31 acres of permanent easement.

The proposal “uses the same fee structure agreed upon for the original temporary easement, permanent easement and timber consideration,” board documents state. Because the area is in Public Act 217 lands, the permanent easement fee will be paid to the state of Michigan. The county would receive around $4,650 for the pipeline reroute. Staff has recommenced approving the proposed reroute and requesting a partial release of the permanent easement to Marquette County from SEMCO upon completion of the pipeline project.

At tonight’s meeting, the board will also consider providing funds to Michigamme Township to defray costs from a recent Michigan Tax Tribunal case, ratification of a magistrate appointment, a county option to purchase property for the Marquette County Land Bank Authority, a resolution regarding funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and a resolution regarding revolving loan fund compliance and policies.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.