Governor Rick Snyder took an off-road vehicle ride Wednesday along the new Escanaba to Hermansville multi-use trail, celebrating one more milestone in deepening Michigan’s brand as The Trails State.
The trail was developed through a unique and innovative partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and American Transmission Co.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Thomas St. Onge Veterans Museum in Hermansville, Gov. Snyder rode the roughly 25-mile ORV route east into Delta County to the Great Lakes Sports and Recreation Club in Escanaba.
“This new outdoor recreation opportunity is a great example of government, businesses and the community working together,” Gov. Snyder said. “Because of the public-private collaboration, residents and visitors alike will enjoy this trail for decades to come and celebrate the best of Pure Michigan.”
Development of the trail began in 2007 when the state acquired the inactive railroad corridor from Wisconsin Central.
This acquisition of the corridor was a collaborative effort between the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s Parks and Recreation Division and the Michigan Department of Transportation, with grant funding provided by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
The $550,000 land purchase was transacted under the State Transportation Preservation Act, which preserves future transportation interest, while allowing for interim trail use.
From 2009 through 2011, the DNR engaged in a public comment process to determine the best possible uses for the railroad corridor. Overwhelmingly, the public wanted the corridor open for multiple uses, ranging from hiking, biking and off-road vehicle use to snowmobiling and horseback riding.
“In 2013, the American Transmission Co. approached the DNR about the possibility of siting its electric transmission line next to the rail-trail,” said Ron Yesney, DNR Upper Peninsula trails coordinator. “In return, the company offered to fund construction and maintenance of the recreational trail, including three bridge upgrades.”
The resulting $3.5 million project has produced a premier multi-use trail corridor, helping to connect communities in the U.P., and important additional electric transmission into the region.
“This was a winning project all the way around,” said Tom Finco, vice president of external affairs for American Transmission Co. “By co-locating our transmission line within an established corridor, we minimized the environmental impact of the project and were able to provide state residents with a multi-purpose trail. This new recreational asset also should help attract tourists to an easily accessible part of the Upper Peninsula.”
One of the biggest benefits of this partnership is that it allows the DNR to save program dollars, which can now be used in other areas in need of recreational improvements.
“This type of partnership venture could potentially be duplicated elsewhere across Michigan where the need to develop recreational opportunities and energy infrastructure intersect,” said Stacy Haughey, DNR Upper Peninsula coordinator.
Local off-road vehicle riders and clubs have supported the trail development, providing another cooperative boost to the project. The Normenco Sportsman’s Club of northern Menominee County and the Sportsmen’s Off-Road Vehicle Association of Delta County will be the trail sponsors, coordinating maintenance of the trail.
Yesney said the joint effort in Menominee and Delta counties on this cooperative rail-trail development has been a success.
“It demonstrates an efficient way to achieve multiple goals and meet objectives, with significant improvements in recreation and electric infrastructure gained for the Upper Peninsula for decades to come,” Yesney said.