May 1, 2012 –An Upper Peninsula trail already a favorite of residents and visitors is about to get more popular. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) have announced that a federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) grant and a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund will be used to expand the Iron Ore Heritage Trail in Marquette County . The trail expansion is expected to boost recreation and tourism in the area. The Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority also is making a financial contribution.
The project involves the construction of 12 miles of a shared-use pathway by the Marquette County Road Commission that will provide access to and interpret the area’s natural heritage and resources as part of the Marquette Iron Range . The new pathway will start at the Negaunee Senior Citizens Center and run east to County Road 492 near Ely Street , where it will follow historic railroad grades. The trail will continue east, ending with improvements to the former Soo Line Railroad bridge over the US-41/M-28 bypass in Marquette .
The trail will directly connect with an existing Negaunee-to-Ishpeming multi-use trail funded with a previous TE grant. It will eventually extend west to Republic Township and hook up with proposed trails planned in Marquette and Chocolay Charter Township , resulting in a county-wide network of 48 miles of paved trailway. People of all ages and abilities, including walkers, bicyclists, runners, inline skaters, nature enthusiasts, history buffs and snowmobilers, will be able to use the trail.
“This is a great placemaking project for Marquette County ,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “This project provides an alternative means of transportation that gives residents and visitors access to the many cultural and recreational attractions in the area. With collaboration and partnership between state agencies, local units of government and a local nonprofit agency, the vision has become a reality.”
“This project is another outstanding example of how the Natural Resources Trust Fund is forging partnerships with local governments and the nonprofit sector to preserve public land for the use and enjoyment of the people of Michigan,” said MDNR Director Rodney Stokes. “We’re proud to be a part of this effort.”
“The Marquette County Road Commission is pleased to partner with the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority, MDOT and the MDNR on this nonmotorized trail,” said James Iwanicki, engineer-manager, Marquette County Road Commission.
“Our residents have been looking forward to this major connection and we expect that trail usage will explode. This phase allows us to continue the Marquette Iron Range Story, one that is unique to us and gives us our sense of place,” said Carol Fulsher, administrator, Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority. “We are following the original plank road that was used in the mid-1850s to take the newly discovered ore to the Lake Superior harbor for shipping to steel mills. Users of this section of the trail will go past early mine sites, forges, quarries, active tracks that continue to bring ore to the harbor, and the Michigan Iron Industry Museum.”
The total cost of the project is $1,440,000, including $777,800 in federal TE funds, $460,000 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, and $202,200 in local match from the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority.
Under federal law, 10 percent of federal surface transportation funds are set aside for TE projects. Administered by MDOT, the grants enable communities to invest in projects such as streetscapes and nonmotorized trails. TE funds provide a maximum of 80 percent of the money required for each project, with the remainder coming from state and local government and the private sector.