Land use rules restricting equestrian and bicycle use at Blueberry Ridge Pathway in Marquette County will remain in place without change, Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes announced at today’s Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing .
The decision follows a public information meeting in October and public hearing in December regarding equestrian use restrictions at Blueberry Ridge, spurred by legislation directing the DNR to re-examine such restrictions at five specific locations.
“After reviewing public testimony, DNR staff recommendations, and input from the Natural Resources Commission, it is clear that due to its design and natural features, Blueberry Ridge is best suited to low-impact uses such as cross-country skiing, running and hiking,” said Director Stokes. “My decision supports previous citizen advisory group recommendations to apply usage restrictions to the trail system and create an alternative equestrian riding opportunity nearby.”
In 2005, the DNR convened a citizen advisory group to examine user conflicts that had arisen between equestrian riders and bicyclists, hikers, runners and cross-country skiers.
The resulting advisory council recommendations led to the current land use rules being put in place, along with the 2007 construction of Thunder Valley Equestrian Trail, a designated horse trail located approximately six miles from Blueberry Ridge. Additionally, the DNR invested in significant repairs at Blueberry Ridge to remediate documented trail damage. The Department remains committed to working with the equestrian community to improve the Thunder Valley Equestrian Trail.
Blueberry supporters ABC 10 spoke with say they are extremely happy with the DNR decision. They say the area is like a backyard to them: a place to run and walk. And, they say they didn’t want to see the landscape negatively affected by equestrian use.
On the other side of the issue, avid horse riders contacted by ABC 10 say they are hurt and frustrated by the ruling. They believe the Thunder Valley Trail System is not adequate for their needs.
For more information about Blueberry Ridge Pathway, go to www.michigan.gov/dnrtrails.