DNR funds two Ironwood projects


December 20, 2019



Ironwood — The city of Ironwood is awaiting final approval for funding of two projects that improve the Beltline Trail and Curry Park.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommended a $38,100 project to renovate campsites at Curry Park. The board also recommended $14,800 for acquisition of approximately 5 acres of railroad grade to extend the in-town Southern Beltline Trail route in Ironwood.

The recommendations are now with the state legislature for review as part of the appropriations process. Upon approval, the legislature will forward a bill to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign.

“That is when we get grant agreements,” said Tom Bergman, director of community development for the city of Ironwood.

There are currently 49 campsites at Curry Park with 10 with recreational vehicle (RV) electrical hookup, Bergman said. The project will be to upgrade electric service for the 10 existing RV sites and updates 10 more sites, he said.

“Those 10 sites were upgraded in 2014 and this will upgrade 10 more,” Bergman said.

It’s important for the city because the campground is scenic but basic in terms of amenities, he said. More people are buying larger RV vehicles and there have been many requests from RV owners who would prefer to rent a campsite in Ironwood if there is higher amperage electrical service for the newer, larger vehicles, and is a potential income source for city, he said.

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“This will meet the demands of the industry for camping within the city limits,” Bergman said. “These are higher-end electrical hookups for larger RVs and will help keep the campground full for as many days possible.”

The project also rebuilds gravel pads, adds landscape screening and picnic tables that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the funding is approved soon, the work may start next summer but more likely in 2021, he said.

“We will have two years to complete the project,” he said, referring to the grant guidelines.

This is a Phase 2 project for Curry Park, he said. It should take less time to complete as it will start right as Phase 1 is completed.

Future projects will focus on improving the existing parks in the city, Bergman said. The plans are to improve amenities such as shower and bathroom updates, he said.

Bergman said that some people criticize the park updates when there are other priorities for the city. He said it’s important to understand that this DNR grant program is very specific to projects that improve outdoor recreation development and that other needs are funded with other government funding sources such as Community Development Block Grants.

“We can’t arbitrarily choose to use dedicated dollars for other things,” Bergman said. “We write these grants for a specific purpose and cannot use it for something else.”

The second grant will for the acquisition of approximately 5 acres of railroad grade to extend the Southern Beltline Trail so it will connect Norrie Park in southwest Ironwood with the western neighborhoods near the Wisconsin border on the Montreal River. Once completed the trail through Ironwood will end near the terminus of the Iron Belle Trail, the statewide bike and hike trail system, originating in Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

“This was a prior grant acquisition in 2017 and Phase 1 went from Miners Park to Norrie Park, Bergman said. This Phase 2 project to purchase the rail grade completes the loop that links up with the Iron Belle Trail, he said.

“The way the trends are going, people are looking for quality parks and trail systems in communities where they want to settle down,” Bergman said.

Property values increase adjacent to trails, he said. Hayward and Duluth are two examples where trail systems are part of the economic development tools that attract small businesses and professionals who want these quality of life amenities, he said.

“Trails are really important to that,” Bergman said.

Another Upper Peninsula project approved by the DNR Trust Fund board is in Ontonagon County. The West UP Shooting Facility at the Porcupine Mountains is a $300,000 development to improve and expand an existing shooting range operated by the Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club on DNR-managed public land.

The project will build a new clubhouse and indoor range for hunter safety courses, workshops and promoting entry into target shooting and hunting. The project also includes driveway, parking lot, pathways and utilities.

The DNR Trust Fund board reviewed 160 applications seeking nearly $54 million in funding. The restricted Trust Fund was established in 1976 to support land conservation and outdoor recreation and is financed through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals such as oil and natural gas.


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