Little Badwater bike trail plan advances

QUINNESEC – After spending years in the planning stages, a proposal to create a non-motorized trail around the Little Badwater area of the Menominee River is finally moving forward.

During their Monday meeting, members of the Breitung Township Board of Trustees voted to start negotiations with We Energies to lease the property at a cost of $1 per year.

Resident and project supporter Joe Sparpana informed the board that he would be willing to pay $100 to the township to cover the first 100 years of the lease.

With a tentative lease agreement in place, the Dickinson County Bike Path Committee will agree to pay up to $1,500 for an archeological survey and a botanical survey of the area, both of which are required by We Energies before the lease is finalized.

Once a final lease is in place, the bike path committee will then develop and maintain the trail, as well as install signage.

Sparpana explained that a bike/hiking trail at Little Badwater would end up being part of a larger recreation area that includes Vagabond Park across the river in Spread Eagle, Wis. and the historic Upper Twin Falls Bridge.

Kyle Lindstrom of the bike path committee added that it would be the first new trail constructed in Dickinson County since 2001.

“It’s a great area – 95 percent of the time, you’re looking at water,” he said. “I don’t know any other trail like that.”

Board members did have some reservations about the project, specifically about restricting the area to non-motorized use and about putting township dollars toward a parking lot and a porta-potty for the site.

Township Supervisor Denny Olson felt that a non-motorized trail might disrupt other users in the area, such as hunters, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders, or loggers.

Todd Jastremski of We Energies pointed out that not many hunters utilize the area, as it is too close to County Road 607. He added that ATV riding and logging are not currently allowed on the property anyway.

As for constructing a parking lot and installing a porta-potty, Trustee Mary Beth Dixon said that she would not be comfortable committing taxpayer dollars to the project without knowing an exact cost. Olson agreed, and recommended that the bike path committee try approaching the county board or the county planning commission for funding.

According to Jayna Huotari of the Dickinson County Planning Commission, the Little Badwater project is in the recreation plan. Once the plan is approved, the project will become eligible for grant funding, she noted.

Trustee Ben Peterson echoed Dixon’s and Olson’s concerns.

“You’re asking a lot of money for a small percentage of people who would use it,” he said.

Township Treasurer Carol Taylor suggested that the bike path committee just move forward with the trail at this point in time. If money for a parking lot and porta-potty becomes available later on, the issue could be addressed then, she said.

Jastremski said that We Energies would probably be able to move a gate in the area to make room for some parking. He added that a porta-potty is not a necessity, since the township does not have an ordinance requiring it.

In other business, the board:

– Enacted a new noise ordinance in which prohibited noises are referred to in general terms such as “excessive, unnecessary, unnatural, or unusually loud.” The old ordinance based upon decibel levels was basically unenforceable, as the township does not have a decibel meter or any staff certified to use one.

During the public hearing on the matter, two residents expressed concern about the loud noises in their neighborhood. One of the residents added that the new ordinance might be more unfair, since different enforcers might have different interpretations of what constitutes an “excessive, unnecessary, unnatural, or unusually loud” sound.

Township Superintendent Rogina explained that the new ordinance is based on Marquette Township’s noise ordinance, which has been successfully enforced for years.

Board members noted that the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police, and the township’s code enforcement officer have the authority to enforce the ordinance.

– Opened proposals from companies seeking to provide comprehensive technical, computer, and network services for the township office. Five proposals were received from UES Computers of Iron Mountain, GoTech of Norway, Tech Solutions of Iron Mountain, MTech of Vulcan, and Interwoven Technologies of Quinnesec. Rogina and other office staff members will review each proposal and make a recommendation to the board at its next meeting.

– Authorized Department of Public Works employee Jay Davis to attend a water seminar in Marquette on Sept. 18 and 19. The township will cover the cost of registration, mileage, meals, and two nights of lodging.

– Enacted an ordinance to confirm the establishment of a planning commission with zoning authority. The ordinance will bring the township into compliance with the Michigan Planning and Zoning Enabling Act. No public comments were received during the public hearing held prior to the ordinance’s approval.

– Appointed Peter Murphy to the Board of Review and Rich Wales to the Zoning Board of Appeals as replacements for Robin Bertsch, who recently resigned from the two positions. The board thanked Bertsch for his service.

– Approved a resolution honoring students and staff at Kingsford High School for being recognized by U.S. News and World Report in its selection of “Best High Schools in Michigan 2014.”

– Thanked all the firefighters, residents, and volunteers who helped out with the recent Upper Peninsula Volunteer Firefighters’ Association Tournament in Quinnesec.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.