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Dickinson County bridge project ceremony highlights successful DNR trail work season in central UP

The newly opened snowmobile bridge is shown amidst a wintry scene today in Dickinson County.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marking completion of a $600,000 multi-use, recreational trail bridge replacement project was held today in Foster City in Dickinson County.

The ceremony capped off a successful season of trail improvement efforts on behalf of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in the central Upper Peninsula.

"This bridge is a grand addition to our regional trail system that will benefit trail users and local residents," said Rob Katona, central U.P. trails specialist with the DNR's Parks and Recreation Division. "We are excited to see this project completed just in time for the (Dec. 1) opening of the snowmobile season."

The project along the Felch Grade Rail-Trail involved complete replacement of a former railroad trestle with a 130-foot-long, prefabricated, steel bridge with a timber deck. The bridge measures 14 feet wide.

The span over the East Branch of the Sturgeon River, off Cheese Factory Road, had been closed for more than 14 years until the trestle could be replaced.

"The new bridge will eliminate a safety problem for snowmobilers," said Henry Wender, chairman of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners.

The Felch Grade is a primary east-west trail in the south-central U.P. that connects communities along the M-69 corridor, providing through travel to other cities and towns, including Republic and Gwinn to the north, Iron Mountain and Norway to the south and Escanaba to the east.

Before replacing the center pilings and bridge abutments, a DNR fisheries biologist and staffers from Whitewater and Associates of Amasa surveyed and relocated freshwater mussels about 1,000 feet upstream from the project site.

At the bridge, 172 freshwater mussels, composed of eight species - four listed as species of special concern in Michigan - were relocated. The surveys confirmed that the river is home to a vibrant population of native mussels. 

"This project involved a lot of preliminary work to secure a long-term lease agreement with Dickinson County, which made funding for this project possible," Katona said. "We thank Dickinson County for partnering with the DNR in the construction of this project that will enhance outdoor recreation in this area."

The contractor for the project was the Hebert Construction Co. of Iron River. The work and was funded through DNR off-road vehicle and snowmobile trail improvement funds.

Meanwhile, the DNR has completed numerous additional ORV trail and nonmotorized pathway improvement projects in the central U.P. over the past few months, which totaled more than half a million dollars.

ORV trail projects

Among these efforts, 20 projects were completed to revitalize trail surfaces, repair aging infrastructure and improve environmental conditions across 200 miles of ORV trails and routes through portions of Delta, Dickinson, Marquette and Menominee counties.

Surface projects included dust control, filling, graveling and grading. Culverts were replaced at several locations on ORV trails and routes. Six bridges were repaired. New boardwalks were built on a single-track motorcycle trail. 

The total cost of the improvements was $423,000, funded by the state's Off-Road Vehicle Trail Improvement Fund, which consists of revenue from ORV license and trail permit sales.

"ORV use across the area is at an all-time high," Katona said. "We are dedicated to putting the revenue gained through ORV sticker sales back on the ground to benefit the ORV community and ensure we have a well-maintained and safe trail system."

Project work was performed by various local contractors including Gagne Custom Logging & Excavating of Spalding, Pine Creek Excavating of Norway, Geomaterials, ATP, Jacobson Landscaping, Bilski Enterprises, Big Creek Builders, Tembreull's Excavation Inc. of Michigamme, Sam Dirt Works and Conery Contracting of Champion.

"We are especially thankful for the ORV clubs who assist with maintenance needs," Katona said. "Without their commitment and partnership, we would not have the high-quality and well-managed trail system that we have today."

Nonmotorized pathway projects

Work to construct sections of raised trail, install culverts, build boardwalk, harden trail surfaces, reroute trails and improve parking areas took place at state pathways in three counties. Nonmotorized trail fund grants paid for the $87,000 total cost.

"The pathway work was necessary to improve wet areas and replace old boardwalks that were in poor shape," Katona said. "The work improved the overall quality of these pathways. Pathway users should be pleased with these improvements. We are planning on continuing to improve more of these areas in the next couple of years."

The pathways included in the projects were the Days River Pathway in Delta County, the Cedar River Pathway in Menominee County and the Little Presque Isle and Anderson Lake pathways in Marquette County.

Contractors included Gagne Custom Logging and Excavating, Geomaterials and Atlas Contracting.

All state pathways are open to all nonmotorized use, but Cedar River is primarily for equestrians, while the others have a mix of hiking and biking as primary uses.

For more information on Michigan's state trails and pathways, visit

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Bridge: The newly opened snowmobile bridge is shown amidst a wintry scene today along the East Branch of the Sturgeon River in Dickinson County.

Ribbon: Ron Yesney, Upper Peninsula trails coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, stands with a group of trail and project supporters today having just cut a ribbon celebrating the opening of a new snowmobile bridge, over the East Branch of the Sturgeon River in Dickinson County. Pictured from left to right, Rob Katona, central Upper Peninsula trails specialist with the DNR, Jim Muraska, secretary of the Normenco Sportsman's Club, Jason Hubbard, a trails specialist with the Normenco Sportsman's Club, Jen Kirk, president of the Tri-County Snowmobile and ORV Club, Greg Olender, past president of the Tri-County Snowmobile and ORV Club, Patrick Olson, U.P. trails - property analyst for the DNR, Yesney, Les Mulzer, trail specialist with the Normenco Sportsman's Club and Dickinson County Commissioner John Degenaer, Jr., of District 5.

Contact: Rob Katona, (Trails) 906-226-1348 or John Pepin (Media), 906-226-1352