NTN purchase of Heartwood parcel good public policy

A single pathway can take the user on a journey from point A to point B. Sure, you can retrace your steps and end up back at the beginning, maybe catch a few new sights along the way, but — unless you venture off the path — that’s about it.

A network of pathways, on the other hand, gives the user the ability to go to different destinations, see things from multiple vantage points and gain unique experiences with each new trail traveled. Excitement awaits around every bend. Could there be a bobcat lurking around the next turn, or maybe a bear? Probably not. But being on a trail in the woods, whether on foot or wheels, is still an enjoyable recreational activity for many.

We’re fortunate here in the Marquette area to have a network of non-motorized trails, all with their own distinct set of experiences to be enjoyed.

A lot of the work that goes into creating and maintaining those trails is thanks to the Noquemanon Trail Network, which is in the process of buying property from the city of Marquette that will be folded into the NTN’s existing footprint. The Marquette City Commission on Monday authorized City Manager Mike Angeli to begin negotiating the sale of Parcel 13 of the Heartwood Forestland property.

The 25-acre Parcel 13 is situated just south of the intersection of Division Street and M-553, and includes the parking lot and pavilion at the NTN’s south trailhead.

This southerly part of the city is changing. The commission last year OK’d selling Parcel 35 of the Heartwood Forestland property to Curran & Co./Rippling River Resort, and Parcel 12 to Veridea Group LLC. The former was to allow the campground to expand, while the latter is believed to be the future site of a medical technology facility. Due to a conservation easement on a portion of the land, the Superior Watershed Partnership was also to establish a community forest there.

As development in the city expands, we like the way this most recent agreement between the city and NTN is shaking out for multiple reasons.

For one, Marquette’s trails, and the races and events held on them, have provided the area with positive recognition, as well as plenty of visits from out-of-town tourists who bring their wallets and purses, contributing to our local economy.

Secondly, if its purchase is successful, the NTN plans to expand amenities at the south trailhead with safer ingress and egress, toilets, more parking, equipment storage and additional trails, according to a letter to Angeli from NTN Executive Director Lori Hauswirth. That all means a more enjoyable and safer experience for users.

In addition, NTN President Cary Gottlieb told commissioners on Monday that the trail group is requesting a clause be placed in the purchase contract ensuring that the property will revert back to the city should the NTN ever cease to exist. That’s not what we foresee happening, but the reverter is something that could benefit the city in the future.

The property also must be sold to the NTN for no less than 80 percent of the parcel’s appraised value. Though that figure may be slightly less than what another developer might pay, the city should still get a pretty nice check for the land while also upholding its image as a trail-friendly community.

Furthermore, this arrangement allows for some of our natural wilderness to be kept in a relatively pristine state, while also helping to sustain our local economy through tourism. That’s the kind of balance between conservation and economic development we’ve stood behind before, and one that we can easily support again.