Leaders briefed on Iron Ore Heritage Trail

ESCANABA — Information on a 47-mile recreational trail in Marquette County that was created through voter-supported millages, grants and volunteer efforts was presented Monday during a round table meeting of Delta County leaders at Escanaba City Hall.

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail extends from Republic in western Marquette County to Chocolay Township, located southeast of Marquette, explained Carol Fulsher, administrator of the trail authority.

The Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority, initially made up of 10 municipalities, became incorporated in 2007. Following a millage attempt for .2 mills in 2008 that failed by a very slim margin, the authority regrouped and was successful in its second millage attempt in 2010.

A 2.5-mile trail that connected Ishpeming and Negaunee has since grown to 47 miles, stretching east and west halfway across the county using grants and the $290,000 generated annually from the designated millages in the now eight participating municipalities.

“This has been a phenomenal asset that really brought the communities together,” commented Fulsher.

Members of the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority include the townships of Chocolay, Marquette, Negaunee, Tilden and Republic and the cities of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming.

The Escanaba Recreation Department’s top priority in 2018 is working towards connecting non-motorized trails within the city at an estimated cost of $851,000.

The first phase of the project will be funded through grants and Bay College, which will connect its bike path to the city’s trail system which will join up with the newly-constructed non-motorized path along the lakeshore between Gladstone and Escanaba Township.

In the past, municipalities participating in the round table meetings at Escanaba City Hall have also discussed the possible development of a county-wide trail system that would connect to the state’s Iron Belle Trail that will eventually extend from Detroit to Ironwood.

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail in Marquette County is used year round for non-motorized traffic including walkers, runners, hikers, bicyclists and cross-country skiers with much of the route open to ORV and snowmobile use in the wintertime, explained Fulsher. The section between Ishpeming and Republic is open year-round to motorized traffic, she noted.

Portions of the trail system are paved, while other areas have crushed limestone or no upgraded surface. Amenities available along the path include parking, restrooms, benches, artwork and interpretive signage which relay historical information about the mining history of the Marquette Iron Range.

Geography differs along the route and includes historic mining regions, forested areas, wetlands, the Lake Superior shoreline, and three downtowns — Marquette, Ishpeming and Negaunee.

Almost all of the trail is on public land owned by the state or purchased by the authority with a very small amount of the route located on private property — businesses in Ishpeming which have granted trail right-of-ways, said Fulsher.

Maintenance of the trails is provided by the member municipalities, paid contractors, local clubs and organizations, and other volunteers, she said.

Fulsher said future plans include extending the east end of the trail two miles to Lakanenland, a sculpture park located on M-28, about 15 miles east of Marquette.

A public hearing on the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority’s five-year recreation plan is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Country Inn and Suites in Marquette. Plans will prioritize building, managing and maintaining the trail including upgrading trail surfaces, adding more parking, restrooms and lighting, and interpreting significant structures and sites.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net


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