Southern U.P. bike trail proposed


News Editor

IRON MOUNTAIN – Dickinson County is proposing a southern Upper Peninsula route for a Michigan biking and hiking trail that would run some 900 miles from downstate Belle Isle to Ironwood.

The Dickinson plan is a viable alternative to a northern U.P. route along Lake Superior that was proposed last fall by Gov. Rick Snyder, said County Commissioner Barbara Kramer.

“One advantage we have is that we have more inter-county connect-ability with trail systems that already exist in the southern U.P.,” Kramer said.

The county board on Monday adopted a resolution of support for the southern route, and will now enlist the aid of Gogebic, Iron, Menominee, Delta, Schoolcraft and Mackinac counties to move the concept ahead.

“We anticipate that it will more or less follow the route for U.S. Highway 2, with opportunities for stops at points of interest and sightseeing along the way,” Kramer said.

“The southern route should be developed first, because the economic impact of this trail will provide much needed benefits to all of the involved counties,” she added. “Once this route is established, the northern route can be developed and will offer trail users an opportunity to tour the entire Upper Peninsula using the ‘The Yooper Loop.'”

In November, Snyder offered a vision for a 924-mile signature trail that would stitch together existing trails and new routes to connect the entire state. Under that proposal, 81.5 miles of new trails would be needed in the Lower Peninsula and 152 in the Upper Peninsula.

The governor directed the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to meet with communities, the federal government and volunteer groups that own or groom trails to see how the network could be developed or improved.

Bob Werner, chairman of the Dickinson County Planning Commission and the Dickinson Bike Path Committee, pointed out that the governor’s proposed route is tentative. A southern U.P. path offers significant benefits for tourism, recreation and health, he said.

County Commissioner Joe Stevens praised Kramer and Werner for taking the lead in proposing the southern route.

In other action, the county board:

– Adopted a 2013 county operating millage rate of 6.1203 mills, the same as the current rate, and the same rate that has been levied for about a decade.

– Authorized Sheriff Scott Celello to solicit bids for equipment and related work to upgrade the 911 dispatch system. The project is financed through the sale of $500,000 in revenue bonds, with payment guaranteed through a three-year, 0.4-mill levy approved by voters in February.

– Approved sending Pete Schlitt, deputy director of emergency services, to Lansing for the Michigan Public Service Commission 911 surcharge hearings on June 17-19. Dickinson is one of 11 counties that continues to contest its allowed surcharge rate, seeking an increase from its current rate of $1.22 per phone line. (Iron County, by comparison has a rate of $3.09 per line.) If Dickinson’s surcharge does rise, the county could eventually consider lowering its tax levy for the 911 system, said Board Chairman Henry Wender. The approximate cost for Schlitt’s trip to Lansing is $700.

– Released 2013 appropriations of $2,500 each for aquatic nuisance (milfoil) control to the Sawyer Lake Association and the Lake Antoine Association. The Lake Antoine group’s request for an increase to $5,000 was denied.

– Approved the repair/rebuild of a Ford Airport fire truck water pump by Bruce Municipal Equipment Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wis., at an estimated cost of $5,243.

– Heard Equalization Director Sid Bray report that Sam Gerber has been hired as the county’s new assistant equalization director, filling a vacancy created earlier this year when Bray was promoted to replace Larry Swartout, who retired. Gerber, who has some experience in property assessment, is working towards Level II assessor certification, Bray said.

– Welcomed Nicole Frost, former administrator of downstate Gratiot County, as the county’s new controller-administrator. Frost, who holds a forestry degree from Michigan State University, said she worked as a timber buyer before spending about 12 years in county parks and recreation management. She accepted the top Gratiot County administrative position 3 1/2 years ago and has furthered her education in public administration. She complimented the Dickinson board Monday – her first day on the job – for being well-prepared and conducting an efficient meeting. Frost replaces Kay Pascoe, who retired earlier this month.

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