Officials dedicate Delta County Forest

Jordan Beck | Daily Press From left in foreground, State Rep. Beau LaFave, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board member Erin McDonough, Delta County Board of Commissioners Chair David Rivard, and State Sen. Tom Casperson participate in a ribbon-cutting for the Delta County Forest Tuesday. This was part of a dedication ceremony for the community forest.

CORNELL TOWNSHIP — People involved with the establishment of the Delta County Forest attended a dedication ceremony for the community forest Tuesday.

Delta County finalized its purchase of the 1,400 acres of land in Cornell Township — now being used for the community forest — from the Weyerhaeuser company last year. The Delta County Forest will be managed for deer, woodcock, and the golden-winged warbler, among other species. In addition to the wildlife management aspects of the community forest, it includes walking trails, ORV trails, and other recreational opportunities (such as hunting, trapping, cross-country skiing, berry and mushroom picking, and rustic camping).

The property the Delta County Forest is located on cost more than a million dollars, 75 percent of which was paid for with a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Trust Fund grant. Previously, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board had recommended the grant be awarded to Delta County.

Delta Conservation District Executive Director Rory Mattson said Tuesday’s ceremony was held in keeping with one of the requirements associated with the grant.

“Part of that grant requirement is that you have a dedication,” he said.

Mattson said the ceremony coincides with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board meeting scheduled in the area today.

“Because of the trust fund meeting, we decided to have it while the trust fund was here,” he said.

During the ceremony, Mattson and representatives of organizations and businesses involved with the Delta County Forest (including U.P. Whitetails, Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County, and Weyerhaeuser) spoke. A ribbon-cutting for the community forest took place, as well.

While the community forest has been open to the public since before the purchase of the land it is located on was finalized, further improvements may be made to it in the future.

“We, along with Wildlife Unlimited, donated funds to help upgrade (the community forest),” U.P. Whitetails Treasurer Alan Ettenhofer said. These groups have also applied for grants to fund the further development of walking trails, hunting trails, and wildlife openings in the forest.

Erin McDonough, a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board member who attended Tuesday’s ceremony, said she was glad to see the Delta County Forest become a reality.

“This is an exciting acquisition for the Upper Peninsula that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board is excited to sponsor,” she said.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board is affiliated with the DNR, DNR Recreation Grants Unit Manager Jon Mayes said. Mayes also said he was happy to see a strong turnout at Tuesday’s ceremony.

“It feels great to see all these people that have shown up to support this project,” he said.

Multiple elected officials on the state and county levels were present at the ceremony. State Rep. Beau LaFave said the Delta County Forest serves as an example of what can be done as a result of partnerships between state, county, and local entities.

“I think this is a great project and a great … (collaboration),” he said.

State Sen. Tom Casperson also voiced his approval of the Delta County Forest, noting he is particularly glad the forest can be accessed by the public.

“That’s what I appreciate about this project,” he said.

Delta County Board of Commissioners Chair David Rivard said the community forest will have a positive economic impact on Delta County.

“I think it’s a great asset to the county — it’ll help our future finances,” he said. Logging on this property will eventually serve as a new revenue stream for the county; timber is expected to be cut there every 10 to 15 years, and money from this will go into funding the county’s parks.

Joe Huber, a Weyerhaeuser forester who was in attendance at Tuesday’s ceremony, said he was glad that this event was able to showcase the Delta County Forest.

“I think it’ll be a really good piece for the public, here,” he said.

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