BESSEMER — The Gogebic County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday backed a more southern route for Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed statewide bicycle trail.
Instead of supporting Snyder’s northern route that would follow Lake Superior and mirror the North Country Trail, the board suggested a route that would locally extend from Ironwood to Watersmeet, along a trail that already exists.
Barb Kramer, a Dickinson County commissioner, spoke to the board, supporting a southern route that would go through her county.
When Gogebic County commissioner George Peterson, of Watersmeet, looked at a map of Snyder’s planned route, he noted it would skirt the heart of the county, extending through Ontonagon County in the Porcupine Mountains area, then heading into Copper Peak and ending up in Ironwood.
“I think the south route is the best,” Peterson said.
Kramer said, “They didn’t think about the access to Wisconsin when they were planning this.”
She later added, “This is not a war between the north and south.”
Kramer said the southern route wouldn’t exclude other counties, like Ontonagon, from connecting through loops. “We want a whole U.P. loop,” she said.
A northern route wouldn’t provide Wisconsin access, Kramer said.
Commissioner Dennis Jacobson, of Bessemer, said it would be costly to lay the bike path along the North Country Trail.
Kramer said the cost of laying a new path is estimated at $150,000 to $200,000 per mile.
The Gogebic County Board on June 26 placed a letter from Dickinson County seeking support for the southern route on file, in effect taking no action on the request.
This time around, the county board backed the southern route on a voice vote, provided it will be a multi-use trail to also include all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile use.
Commissioner Tom Gerovac, of Ironwood, said he feared people riding bikes along the route would say, “We don’t want motorized vehicles,” shutting down their use. He said the statewide trail should be multi-use, with the counties having control over that designation.
Kramer said a goal of hers is to someday stage a 1,000-mile bike race through the U.P ., perhaps as early as 2016.
“It’s a dream,” she said.