DNR plans single trail corridor for portion of Houghton County; storm restoration work halted indefinitely

Contact: John Pepin, 906-226-1352
Agency: Natural Resources

May 4, 2020

In consultation with local officials, trail sponsors and legislators, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is working toward construction of a single multi-use trail corridor between Dollar Bay and Lake Linden.

However, given anticipated negative impacts to state and federal budgets extending from the coronavirus crisis, work on this project, and many others, will be delayed indefinitely. Work will resume as soon as financially possible.

Revamped trail connection

The new route the DNR is planning for will merge portions of three former railroad grades – since converted to state-managed trails – that run parallel for roughly 14 miles.

Developing this new, single-trail corridor will open a trail connection that has been closed since devastating flooding occurred June 17, 2018, when 7 inches of rain fell over parts of Houghton County in a 9-hour period.  

“Re-opening a trail between Dollar Bay and Lake Linden is very important to these local communities for economic and recreational purposes,” said Ron Yesney, Upper Peninsula trails coordinator with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “Tourism and recreation provide vital economic life blood for many of the Houghton County communities impacted by this historic storm.”

The Dollar Bay and Lake Linden areas were among those hit hardest by the 2018 storm known locally as the “Father’s Day Flood.”

Along the 14-mile route, work began immediately to stabilize damaged sections of the trails, which included 77 places with significant storm damage designated as Federal Emergency Management Agency sites.

An additional 119 locations have degraded culverts, storm drains and other infrastructure. Roughly 7.5 miles of rail-trail remains in need of repairs.

The new route would use segments of each of the three rail-trails in that area and move the trail entirely onto lands under state management. State-owned rail-trail sections unnecessary for the new route would be decommissioned.

This work will help avoid future infrastructure failures and potential downstream impacts to homes, highways, streets and properties.

Financial challenges

In all, the summer 2018 flooding ravaged five state-managed rail-trails in Houghton County, with the destruction assessed at just under $20 million. As of January 2020, $3.46 million has been spent by the DNR to stabilize, engineer and open portions of those five trails.

“With the severity of the damage on the Lake Linden grade, the DNR commissioned a schematic design study to evaluate the planning, feasibility and costs associated with restoration of a single trail corridor between Dollar Bay and Lake Linden,” Yesney said.

The completed study was provided to the DNR in February. Based on this evaluation, the DNR decided to pursue the revamped single trail plan, estimated to cost $7.2 million.

Bid specifications were targeted for completion by September, with bidding potentially completed by December and construction slated for spring 2021.

A portion of the trail cost would qualify for federal reimbursement from FEMA. To finance the remaining cost funds were expected to be assembled from existing and future trail funding.

Then came the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Executive orders place a limit on spending due to the severe economic impact of the coronavirus,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “This forced us to postpone the Dollar Bay to Lake Linden trail project until further notice. We remain committed to completing this restoration when it is financially feasible.”

The DNR will continue to work toward securing full funding for this important project, exploring all opportunities to fill the gap in funding needed.

Cooperation

Since the summer of 2018, the DNR has worked with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on clean-up and restoration efforts. Staff and time have also been contributed to the effort by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

The work and cooperation of Keweenaw Trails Services, the organization that manages the local snowmobile trails, and the Keweenaw ATV Club, which oversees the off-road vehicle trails, has been critical throughout the response to the storm damage response.

For more information on trails in Michigan visit Michigan.gov/DNRTrails.