April 9, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 83

New trail runs through Ontonagon, Iron, Houghton counties, open Aug. 31

GREENLAND — Michigan Trails and Recreation Alliance of Land and the Environment, or MI-TRALE, heard from two guest speakers April 1 in Greenland.

Submitted photo
Jeff Mell, standing, North Zone Assistant Ranger in Recreation for the Ottawa National Forest, speaks during MI-TRALE’s monthly meeting April 1 in Greenland. He discussed a new trail running through Michigan’s Ontonagon, Iron and Houghton counties.

Jeff Mell, North Zone Assistant Ranger in Recreation for the Ottawa National Forest, and J.R. Richardson, chairman of the Michigan National Resources Commission, spoke to MI-TRALE’s board of directors and members.

Mell discussed the newly-affirmed East Connector Route, which runs through Ontonagon, Houghton and Iron counties. “The collective efforts of MI-TRALE, the Ottawa National Forest and others helped make this happen,” Mell said. The trail will open Aug. 31 after brushing, signing and some construction is completed. Mell told the group the brushing work will be done by contract and the construction areas will be handled in-house by the ONF. He also said the ONF will work with MI-TRALE to help work on the trail, including sign installation.

“The Department of Natural Resources declaring the EC as a ‘designated trail’ will greatly aid MI-TRALE with the expense of the signing project,” said Don Helsel, board of directors president. “The DNR will prioritize the designation request.”

Mell also discussed the Pori Junction Vegetation Management Project, which involves 30,000 acres in and near the EC. A meeting in May will introduce the project to the public and a tour of the area will take place in June. “There are many recreational opportunities available in this project,” Mell said.

Mell also presented a rough draft of a new brochure, “ORV Use in the ONF.” He asked MI-TRALE to help create a list of frequently asked questions for the brochure.

Helsel and board members Linda Schulz, secretary, Mike Schulz, trail manager, and Cathy Wainio, equestrian chair, expressed support and appreciation for “furthering the great working partnership” between the group and the ONF.

Richardson spoke second. “My appointment from Gov. Rick Snyder came into effect on Jan. 1 this year, and as the governor wants Michigan to be known as the ‘Trail State,’ one of my priorities as chairman of the NRC is trails,” he said. “I certainly realize the economic importance of trails to this area and I want to do all that I can during my term to advance all trail improvements that ORV users want to have.”

MI-TRALE has pursued the need for an “easement person specifically for the U.P.,” a news release said. Richardson said that would improve relations and the drafting of agreements for easements between private U.P. landowners and state government.

Richardson also discussed proposed changes for trail identification markings on ORV signs and thanked MI-TRALE for their commitment to the project.

“Put me to good use as your NRC chairman so that we’ll be proud of all the improvements we’ll have accomplished for trails and their users in our state,” Richardson said.

“Now is definitely the time for MI-TRALE to put its effort into a project for improving the identification marking of trail signage,” Helsel said. He tanked Richardson for his time.

The group also discussed the start of its April Membership Drive. All MI-TRALE membership renewals have been sent out.

Anyone interested in becoming an MI-TRALE member may visit mi-trale.org and click on “Join Us”; email Cindy Grams, chair of the Membership Committee, at peppermillgrams@charter.net; or mail a request for membership forms to MI-TRALE, P.O. Box 43, Ontonagon MI 49953-0043.

New members are also welcome to attend the group’s next meeting, set Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m. EDT at Twilly’s in Bruce Crossing.