Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Water trail needs regional support


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Ironwood — The fate of a proposed water trail project may be with city, county and state collaborations, according to discussion at the Downtown Ironwood Development Authority meeting on Thursday.

The phased Montreal River Water Trail project would add shoreline features from Norrie Park to downtown. These would include canoe and kayak landings and fishing docks that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In his updates to the DIDA board, Tom Bergman, director of Ironwood Community Development, said the trust fund grant application submitted in April with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was returned with a lower initial score than expected, mainly due to the lack of a collaborative regional designation.

The city includes a water trail project in its five-year recreation plan within the comprehensive plan but the DNR did not consider that to be a regional designation, he said. This creates an opportunity to work with Gogebic County and Iron County, Wisconsin to also designate the Montreal River as a regional water trail in a long-term planning process.

“Whether we get the grant or not, I think that is a really important process that we go through to really have the water trail be a unifying project between the two counties,” Bergman said.

Bergman requested DIDA member Jake Ring and DIDA chair Amy Nosal to help participate in that process.

“Count me in,” Ring said.

Individual municipalities have an uphill battle in trying to create large infrastructure, Nosal said. This is an opportunity to be a lot more intentional about being regional in the trail development. 

“Whenever we are able to work together then I think we can pivot some of that pressure back to the state level to get behind us and bolster these efforts,” Nosal said. “I’m glad that we have that opportunity.”

Mayor Annette Burchell, who is also a DIDA member, said the bi-state, bi-county regional effort would need strong partnerships on all levels. She encouraged engaging community and trail groups such as Iron County Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts.

“I think it could be super powerful and ground breaking,” Burchell said.

In his Downtown City Square update, Bergman said he is seeking input from DIDA on how to go about identifying an ice oval volunteer crew to help maintain the ice rink and sliding hill that will be a flooded area of the park either this season or next, depending on whether the new concrete and sod needs a year to settle.

DIDA member Cathy Flory said that if it’s possible it would be important to add an outdoor winter recreational activity for downtown. 

“The more outdoor activities that can be out there the better, in my opinion,” she said. 

Burchell said that it was hard to watch the parks close in the spring. If it is not possible to flood the rink then the city should make the effort to build the snow pile for kids to go sledding in a way that heavy equipment won’t do any damage.

“We did add rebar into a lot of the sidewalk on the south side of the park with the anticipation that we would be pushing snow across those sections of sidewalk (for removal, sledding and the Sisu Winter Fest),” Bergman said. “Those sections have been reinforce in anticipation that there will be some heavy equipment on them but we will definitely follow the advice of the contractors and engineers in terms of how we need to care for the concrete over this first winter.”

The DIDA board 7-0 approved the increase of wreath purchases from 49 to 67 wreaths to adjust for 18 new decorative lighting poles that were installed this summer on Aurora and Silver streets leading to Hurley, in the Downtown City Square, and along Douglas Boulevard to U.S. 2.

“We don’t necessarily need to have wreaths on every single one of those but we figured we would at least have that discussion,” Bergman said.

The $26 per wreath last year totaled $1,274. The quoted price will remain the same this year and will cost $1,743 for 67 wreaths, which is a $468 increase from the previous year.

Burchell suggested that Bergman select the brightest white lights within reason to be sure the wreaths are illuminated at night.

On a similar topic, Michael Meyer, executive director of the Ironwood Area Chamber of Commerce, updated the board on the Jack Frost Festival committee progress in developing an event that will work within the pandemic guidelines.

He said the committee is developing plans that fit various scenarios. Which plan will move forward will be determined on Nov. 1.

“We are going to still have the Jack Frost Festival but what that festival will consist of we really don’t know yet,” Meyers said. “We are in the process of coming up with alternates for the parade and-or the parade route.”

The response to participate in the parade has not been strong from previous participants but it is still early in the process. When the snow starts there seems to be more interest, he said. 

“We really are working on hopefully trying to have it and whether it’s the same as in the past, we don’t know,” he said. “...We are still looking at trying to have something in the traditional way.”

In other business, the board approved:

—Setting the snow shoveling fund amount to contract for snow removal at the downtown Pocket Park and in front of the Art Park. The 2019-20 contract was $500 and the 2020-21 contract is expected to be completed this week.

The next DIDA meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 22 via ZOOM.

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