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DNR, Club Improve Gogebic Co. Snowmobile Trails
Michigan Ag Connection - 04/12/2018

Even before the curtain lifted on this past winter's fabulous snowmobile season in the Upper Peninsula, months of groundwork, planning and volunteer effort had been under way to reopen two interstate trails, which had been closed for several years.

The two trails -- Nos. 11 South and 160 North -- had connected snowmobilers riding between Michigan and Wisconsin in the western end of the U.P., but the trails were closed several years ago without necessary landowner permissions, enough volunteer workers or necessary improvements.

However, over recent months, vital efforts to reopen these important routes came largely from the reinvigorated leadership and members of the Gogebic Range Trail Authority, a snowmobile club that grooms and maintains over 70 miles of trail in Gogebic County.

"Trail 160 was a big project north of Ironwood in Ironwood Township -- there's a historic snowmobile trail there from Ironwood all the way up to Saxon Harbor (Wisconsin)," said Ron Yesney, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Upper Peninsula trails coordinator. "That trail linkage had been disrupted and that trail had been closed on two separate occasions, and really what we needed was local involvement."

Yesney said the DNR can supply resources, in terms of financial resources through grants and administration, but when it comes to maintaining and sustaining a trail system, the DNR needs to partner with local organizations, clubs that get involved and really want to see something positive happen.

"With Trail 160, the pivotal issues were land control -- they had to get land permission from 21 different land owners, which people in the community were able to do -- and then secondarily to that, there was a bridge issue," Yesney said.

The bridge was out on Mud Creek, on property owned by a major corporate landowner, blocking riders from running the trail north from Ironwood for about 30 miles to Saxon Harbor, where it connects to Wisconsin's Trail No. 3.

"This bridge in the summer of 2016 was nearly washed out from a record-setting storm. We had 9 inches of rain in about five hours," said Steve Hamilton, president of the Gogebic Range Trail Authority. "When our new board members took over, this was our top project was to get this trail reopened. It took about $170,000 of trail-permit-funded money to get this bridge put in."

Hamilton said the original bridge measured 45 feet. With the new flood stage precedent set, and damage to the bridge, the new bridge was extended several feet.

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