Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

City commission supports Norrie Park, river trail projects


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Ironwood — The Ironwood City Commission on Monday approved a resolution to support a grant application that would help renovate Norrie Park and embark on a Montreal River water trail project.

The board 5-0 approved Resolution No. 020-011, a Trust Fund grant application with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The meeting followed a public hearing on the topic that had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic impact on the MDNR grant process.

“I am excited about the opportunity to develop the river and make Ironwood and the area that much more attractive,” said Mayor Annette Burchell.

The grant application is for $111,300 toward the $150,500 project cost. If the grant is approved the city has dedicated $25,200 in cash matching funds and a $14,000 in-kind obligation for a total match of $39,200.

The action followed a public hearing for comment on the topic, where Tom Bergman, director of community development said Norrie Park is a key asset for the city as a riverside location that presents a combination of history and recreational opportunities all year including ski trails and community gardens. This approximately 3-mile water trail adds another element by constructing an ADA compliant kayak and canoe launch, removing trees from the river and conducting shoreland restoration to allow for navigation, along with renovating the existing boardwalk, fishing dock and adding paved pathways.

The kayak and canoe take out location will be developed on a city-owned lot on Hemlock Street near the Riverside Cemetery, he said. There would be a park area with picnic tables, handicap parking near the launch and signage indicating safety and water level information.

The removal of trees from the river will be included in the grant request, Bergman said, responding to Commissioner Kim Corcoran’s question. The plan is coordinated with the Gogebic County hazard mitigation plan and will also include a similar process with Iron County, Wisconsin so that mutual efforts with the river can benefit both communities.

Corcoran said she approved the grant because it will be a “good tie-in’ with the river walk trail that is another long term plan for Ironwood. She also asked if the project could include a dam for the river to improve recreational use for more months of the year.

“Not in this project,” Bergman said.

Any dam control device would exceed the total grant amount. A dam would be a bigger project for the future and is written into the park action plan as a  more substantial undertaking.

Commissioner Rick Semo said that, as a city park, there should be information at the access point about river conditions. There should also be information on what people should expect to see on the river trail, Burchell said.

Amy Nosal, chair of the Downtown Ironwood Development Authority, said DIDA supports the project that would enhance the downtown experience with its location just a few blocks away. Not many cities can boast these recreational features, she said. It also focuses attention to the need to engage and care and support the natural resources that the city is using to build success.

Jake Ring, a DIDA member and former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources water resources specialist, said the project would provide accessibility and also safety as a flatwater, Class 1 river that is considered safest to tip over and recover. Kayaking is a fast growing recreational activity and this project helps meet the demand for enthusiasts, he said.

“You couldn’t have better timing to look into developing a water trail,” Ring said.

Ben Thompson, a community member who called in during the meeting said that the commission should be aware that an individual with 2 acres of riverfront property in Ironwood was willing to donate the land as a tax credit. The land borders non-motorized trails and would be an ideal park and boat launch site, he said.

The board 5-0 approved the purchase of used dasher boards as recommended by the Pat O’Donnell Civic Center Board. The $96,740 purchase from Rink Systems Inc., of Albert Lea, Minnesota, includes newer used boards with new kick plates and cap rail, and insulated poly facing.

The civic center board recommended approval of the cost and stated that it has the funds in the budget, according to the board minutes.

The civic center board considered all three options of refurbishing the existing boards, buying used, or buying new boards for the new building that is expected to be ready in time for the winter sports season, said Jim Collins, Civic Center board chair. There were big price differences with each option, he said.

“They (Rink Systems) offered a one-year warranty when no one else offered that,” Collins said.

Commissioner Jim Mildren, who serves on the civic center board, said the new facility is more than a skating rink. Everything about the new structure will enhance the user and spectator experience and allow the venue to be used for a variety of purposes, he said.

“The public is going to see a wonderfully constructed, pleasing to the eye, functional building that will meet the needs of the area for 50 years at least,” Mildren said. “I can’t wait for opening day. The construction is moving along and we will all be proud of this.”

In other business, the board approved:

—A $129,394 payment to Ruotsala Construction contingent upon MEDC approval for a portion of the Downtown City Square Project construction.

—Adopting Resolution No. 020-012, the Mayor’s Proclamation recognizing “Suicide Prevention Week” for July 27 to Aug. 1, 2020.