The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

WUPTA shares passion for western UP trails

 

September 22, 2018



Editor’s Note: The following story is the second of a three-part series. Part 1, published on Friday, provided an overview of the status of an unnamed, multi-use trail connecting Wakefield to Marenisco.

Wakefield — The Western Upper Peninusla Trail Association operated for only five years, between 2012 and 2017, but its members are proud of what they accomplished during that time.

According to Ross and Kim Kolesar, of Wakefield, who served, respectively, as WUPTA’s president and secretary, “informal” work already had been occurring for about 10 years prior to the organization of the group.

WUPTA described its mission as “to develop and maintain safe and legal off-road vehicle motorized trails in the western end of Gogebic County that would not only boost the local economy, but give additional recreational opportunities to residents.”

Kim Kolesar claimed in an Aug. 12 summary last month that “countless volunteer hours, donations and membership dues kept the club moving forward” until a partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources resulted in WUPTA becoming an official ORV grant sponsor for the DNR.

She said the grant status resulted in more members, as well as “more cooperation from government entities and private landowners.”

Ron Yesney, Upper Peninsula Trails Coordinator of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, told the Daily Globe the DNR’s original intention was for WUPTA and the Gogebic Range Trail Authority to co-manage what is known simply as Trail 2 for snowmobilers, or as the Ironwood-Marenisco route to off-road vehicles. The plan was for WUPTA to be the ORV grant sponsor of the entire route, while GRTA would be the snowmobile grant sponsor of the same route. The I-M route connects Marenisco to Hurley.

When differences of opinion between WUPTA and GRTA fractured that plan, Yesney said the DNR, along with ORV and snowmobile advisory groups, instead suggested in September of 2017 that WUPTA be the ORV grant sponsor of the trail west of Ramsay, while GRTA continue its snowmobile sponsorship, while also being the ORV sponsor of the trail east of Ramsay.

Meanwhile, Ross Kolesar told the Globe other challenges occurred when some landowners complained of unwelcome snowmobilers using their properties. Steve Hamilton, president of GRTA, said some areas of the trail are not designated for snowmobiles, although multi-use is the DNR’s goal. They said negotiations with landowners are an ongoing part of trail management.

Ross Kolesar said all-terrain vehicles also must use roads in some areas because trail continuity is inconsistent. He said problems with swampy areas between Ramsay and Wakefield exacerbate the issue, so that riders entering Wakefield from Marenisco now must use a short portion of Sunday Lake Street, plus Old U.S. 2, to continue on to Ramsay.

Officials have posted announcements that all local streets in Wakefield and Wakefield Township are open to ATVs. Drivers of machines attempting to use M-28 or U.S. 2, however, are warned they will be ticketed.

Although WUPTA chose to dissolve as a state nonprofit organization at the end of last year, Ross Kolesar said members are still busy trying to support ORV riders. “We’re out every week doing things, brushing, moving beaver dams, surveying trails.”

He said he is happy with how the Michigan Trails and Recreation Alliance of Land and the Environment have taken over WUPTA’s responsibilities. At the DNR’s request, MI-TRALE agreed to be the temporary ORV sponsor of the trail between Marenisco and Ramsay.

As part of its exit, WUPTA members also released any remaining funds they held to local governments. “We had to give it to a government entity, based on our bylaws,” said Suzanne Toth, who served as WUPTA’s treasurer. She said Marenisco Township received $5,000, and the remaining sum of $2,183 went to Wakefield Township.

Marenisco Township supervisor Richard Bouvette said the funds received there were used to dress up the township’s Trail 2 trailhead area. Picnic tables and a plaque to thank WUPTA for its donation already exist, and Bouvette hopes to have a five-by-five-foot concrete building ready soon, with coin-operated washing for vehicle operators using the trail.

Wakefield Township supervisor John Cox said the township “formed a partnership” with the city of Wakefield to use funds received by the township for a kiosk where Trail 2 meets Sunday Lake Street, across from the Wakefield Fire Hall.

Wakefield City Manager Richard Brackney hopes eventually to have a waterline at the city’s trailhead. He is also encouraging planning commission members to consider a “good looking” signage plan to lure trail users to city restaurants and businesses.

Kim Kolesar said WUPTA members are grateful to the volunteers and communities for providing funds or hands-on help over the years.

WUPTA now exists informally as the Western U.P. Trail Advocates.

 
 

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