The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Friends of Iron Belle prepare for future


March 23, 2018

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

SCOTT ERICKSON provides an update on the process of extending the Iron Belle Trail east from Bessemer Thursday at Cold Iron Brewing during the Friends of the Iron Belle Trail's spring meeting.


Ironwood - While the locals have continued to use the trail through the winter; the Friends of the Iron Belle Trail are busy preparing for warmer weather, holding its spring meeting Thursday.

Among the items on the agenda was an update on the progress expanding the trail east from Bessemer.

The trail east will be built in two phases, according to trail authority chairperson Scott Erickson, with the first phase continuing the trail from Bessemer to Ramsay.

While the process is still in the relatively early stages, the progress has been positive so far.

"The moon is aligned, the stars are out and it's full speed ahead," Erickson said.

He said the easements for the trail segment have all been agreed upon and the paperwork is being finalized.

Two grant applications are also being prepared, one for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the other for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"Those two grants work together to pay for (the trail construction)," Erickson said.

The Gogebic Range Health Foundation will provide the necessary local match associated with the grants, according to Erickson, estimated to be around $200,000.

"Without that we would not even be applying for the grants," he said.

While Erickson said the decisions on the grants won't be announced until fall, he was hopeful about the chances of the project getting funded.

If the grants are awarded, Erickson said the tentative timeline would start the planning and bidding process in 2019 and construction could possibly begin in 2020.

While work continues on securing funding for the Bessemer-Ramsay segment, the DNR awarded the Western Gateway Trail Authority a $19,720 grant for route planning Monday.

"That's to study the connection between Ramsay and Wakefield," Erickson said.

The grant was one of 28 awarded for projects along the length of the trail, which runs between Ironwood and Belle Isle in Detroit.

While the local trail segment has followed a former rail grade between Ironwood and Ramsay, Erickson said the rail grade merges with a parallel rail grade used by the motorized trail between Ramsay and Wakefield.

The grant will fund work to determine the best route to advance the trail.

Erickson praised the Friends for the excellent work they have done maintaining the trail, saying Iron Belle representatives from Lansing were recently impressed with the local section.

"They toured the trail and they were just blown away at how well it's kept, they said it's probably the best section of trail all the way from here to Detroit," Erickson said.

Along with the update on the future of the trail, the group discussed upcoming events and plans for the season.

Information was also provided on the recent acquisition of a "duet bike," a tandem bike that connects a wheelchair-type seat to a special bike that a second person can pedal.

The bike was acquired through a partnership between the Gogebic Range Health Foundation and the Superior Health Foundation, and allows those with disabilities to use the trail.


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