MARQUETTE - While construction is under way on a groomer garage and with grant requests pending, cross country skiing activists have raised more than half the money necessary for a warming lodge to be built at the Blueberry Ridge cross-country ski trails in Sands Township.
"The Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Parks and Recreation Division has been busy securing the site and clearing it so construction can begin in early spring of 2014," said Debby Muskovitch, a Superiorland Ski Club board member. "The DNR is currently constructing a new garage for the groomer nearby the hut and this should be completed by the time the snow flies."
Blueberry Ridge, which is among Michigan's most popular cross country skiing areas, is located six miles south of Marquette off M-553, offering more than 22 kilometers of ski trails for novice and expert skiers.
Since 2003, the Noquemanon Trail Network has contracted with the state to groom trails at Blueberry Ridge. The trail system is supported by a donation collection pipe.
Last year, Sands Township secured a 30-year lease for a half-acre of property from the DNR where the lodge will be built. Restrooms, a drinking fountain and other features are also planned for the site.
The 900-square-foot lodge would be similar to the Valley Spur Lodge, a U.S. Forest Service facility four miles southwest of Munising. The building would have electricity and be built on a slab.
The Superiorland Ski Club has partnered with Sands Township to operate and maintain the lodge and in fundraising efforts to get the structure built.
"We have raised over half of the cost of the completed furnished hut and this cost is estimated to be at $180,800," Muskovitch said. "So far, we have raised $96,370 in cash and this does not include professional fees donated toward this project or supplies at cost or donated. We do realize now that this hut is going to be built."
Several grants have been applied for to help bolster the fundraising efforts.
"Each grant had a different award amount which is why we applied for several," Muskovitch said. "We are hoping that by applying for more than one we will increase our chances of obtaining one award."
A total of $194,000 has been applied for in state grants.
Muskovitch said $45,000 is being sought from the Recreation Passport Grant Program, $100,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $49,000 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund's small grants initiative.
"We are crossing our fingers that one of these grants will be awarded this fall," Muskovitch said.
In addition to the efforts to build the warming lodge and groomer garage, trail and signage improvements have also been ongoing and are scheduled to be completed this fall.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com.