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DNR plans single trail corridor for portion of Houghton County

HOUGHTON — In consultation with local officials, trail sponsors and legislators, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is working toward construction of a single multi-use trail corridor between Dollar Bay and Lake Linden.

However, given anticipated negative impacts to state and federal budgets extending from the coronavirus crisis, work on this project, and many others, will be delayed indefinitely. Work will resume as soon as financially possible.

Revamped trail connection

The new route the DNR is planning for will merge portions of three former railroad grades – since converted to state-managed trails – that run parallel for roughly 14 miles.

Developing this new, single-trail corridor will open a trail connection that has been closed since devastating flooding occurred June 17, 2018, when 7 inches of rain fell over parts of Houghton County in a 9-hour period.

“Re-opening a trail between Dollar Bay and Lake Linden is very important to these local communities for economic and recreational purposes,” said Ron Yesney, Upper Peninsula trails coordinator with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “Tourism and recreation provide vital economic life blood for many of the Houghton County communities impacted by this historic storm.”

The Dollar Bay and Lake Linden areas were among those hit hardest by the 2018 storm known locally as the “Father’s Day Flood.”

Along the 14-mile route, work began immediately to stabilize damaged sections of the trails, which included 77 places with significant storm damage designated as Federal Emergency Management Agency sites.

An additional 119 locations have degraded culverts, storm drains and other infrastructure. Roughly 7.5 miles of rail-trail remains in need of repairs.

The new route would use segments of each of the three rail-trails in that area and move the trail entirely onto lands under state management. State-owned rail-trail sections unnecessary for the new route would be decommissioned.

This work will help avoid future infrastructure failures and potential downstream impacts to homes, highways, streets and properties.

Financial challenges

In all, the summer 2018 flooding ravaged five state-managed rail-trails in Houghton County, with the destruction assessed at just under $20 million. As of January 2020, $3.46 million has been spent by the DNR to stabilize, engineer and open portions of those five trails.

“With the severity of the damage on the Lake Linden grade, the DNR commissioned a schematic design study to evaluate the planning, feasibility and costs associated with restoration of a single trail corridor between Dollar Bay and Lake Linden,” Yesney said.

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