The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Trail expansion grant accepted by Ironwood City Commission

 

June 29, 2018

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A proposed Southern Beltline Trail would run between Miner's Memorial Park and Norrie Park in Ironwood. The city commission on Monday accepted a Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant to acquire the former Canadian National railroad grade.

By LARRY HOLCOMBE

lholcombe@yourdailyglobe.com

Ironwood - The Ironwood City Commission approved a resolution at its meeting Monday to accept a Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant to help the city acquire property for a trail between Norrie Park and the Miners Memorial Heritage Park.

The strip of property is a former Canadian National railroad grade. The railroad company still owns about half of the 2-mile stretch and the rest is owned by other private property owners, said Ironwood Community Development Director Tom Bergman.

Portions of the former rail corridor is already used as a trail, according to Bergman. "This is the current route of the Sisu Ski Fest, when it leaves Norrie Park and goes into the Miner's Park. That's part of the reason we wanted to get it into the city or public ownership, is to retain that over the long term for that event, as well as having a designated motorized grade, too."

The proposed trail is being called the Southern Beltline Trail and the acquisition would amount to roughly 33 acres.

"This is a huge grade. It's really, really big," said Bergman. "The grade is separate on one end (at Norrie Park) and kind of comes together in the middle. Then it forks out again (nearing Miner's Park)."

He told the city commission on Monday the trail is wide in the middle and that will help divide the motorized and non-motorized traffic.

The estimated total cost of the acquisition project is $72,500 and the city is providing a 26 percent match, or $18,850.

The property owners have already express their support to the project - which was part of gaining the grant - but they're not bound by that declaration to participate, said Bergman. "We needed to have them at least interested in working with the city on the project."

While the city had title work done of the grade a number of years ago, it has not all been appraised. That will be part of the project, said Bergman. "We have a rough idea as we needed to make estimates." The grant calls for the acquisition process to be done by June 30, 2020.

Some of the route is already on city property, but most of it needs to be acquired - half from the railroad company and half from other private property owners.

Bergman said when the railroad abandoned the line, sometimes the property was deeded to an adjacent land owner, sometimes to the city and sometimes the railroad company just kept it.

Bergman pointed out this is just an acquisition project and that developing the trail would bring about another Trust Fund grant process.

A trail development grant would help with clearing brush and surfacing the route in some way, said Bergman. "I'm guessing these routes won't be paved, but they might. The plan is to get them actively used and connecting. We'd like to connect the Miner's Park to the Iron Belle Trail; then you'd be able to go from Norrie Park all the way to Wakefield."

The city has applied for a development grant from the DNR Trust Fund this year to build 12 miles of mountain bike trail in the Miner's Park that would also connect the park to the Iron Belle Trail.

"Spur trails off the Iron Belle grade fairly well with the DNR because the Iron Belle is such a major priority for the state of Michigan, so doing connections to it is good for attaining grant dollars," he said.

Bergman said the Miner's Park is less than a half mile from the Iron Belle Trail and the city owns much of the property needed to cross to get there.

That development grant is in the review stage by the DNR, said Bergman. 'We'll get our preliminary scoring for that in September and we won't know if you're going to get funded until December."

Bergman said there is also planning work being done on a Riverwalk Trail along the Montreal River that would cross the Iron Belle Trail. The trail would cross the river a couple times.

"That's a much bigger project. That will be a co-operative effort with both states, and Ironwood and Hurley," said Bergman.

He said the DNR Trust Fund grants are "really great in the sense they provide lots of funding to our communities and great opportunities."

 
 

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