Dead River Community Forest Project in full swing after pandemic pause

North Central UP

MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – After the pandemic put life on pause so did one of the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy’s biggest projects and now, things are up and running again to make a big piece of land available for all to enjoy.

“A project that in the end will protect about 191 acres of land that are just right on the edge, the sprawling edges of Marquette Township,” said Andrea Denham, Executive Director, U.P. Land Conservancy. “It will be easily accessible and protect some of our kind of local gems that a lot of people don’t even know exist right now.”

The Dead River Community Forest Project has been an effort throughout the past several years.
It’s a collaboration between the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy and about 20 local regional and national partners to permanently protect this land and engage all who enter.

“These two particular pieces of property have for a long time been slated for development and slated for logging and not necessarily for the benefit of the whole community,” said Denham. “In talking with the current land owners, about their plans for the property, they’restarting to talk about how they can get in and start developing, how they can get in and start logging. That’s kind of where we stepped in and said, ‘Hey, instead of doing all of that, we work together to open this place up for the entire community.'”

Funding includes necessities like compensating the current land owners, trail building, trail maintenance, signage and letting people know about this space.

“The price of the properties together is about $267,000 so the vast majority of what we’re fundraising for is the purchase of the properties,” said Denham. “The McClure Basin Association actually very generously donated this 25.5 acre portion of the 191 acres as matched to that $90,000 grant so we already received $90,000 from the US Forest Service. We’ve received grants from the Upper Peninsula Environment Coalition, from Marquette Community Foundation, Upper Peninsula Community Foundation.”

So basically, they are halfway to the fundraising goal.

“I don’t think people realize how we are as a community in the way of the access we have,” said Lori Hauswirth, Executive Director, Noquemanon Trail Network. “We do enjoy a lot of access to trails but it’s also very dependent on land owners and often private land owners. You know so a project like this where it’s being purchased for public access for preservation. You know, these projects are few and far between.”

The Noquemenon Trail Network has been a partner in this project. Their role is centered around the development of trails to help people connect with the property.

“You know it’s got bridges that people like to come in and enjoy,” said Hauswirth. “Typically they come, they take their picture off of the bridge or the old bridge and they leave. This way, they’re going to have an opportunity to get down into the trees and understand what’s happening here in the way of natural processes, there’s a little waterfall, view the water, maybe go fishing. There’s just a lot of opportunity on a parcel like this.”

Hauswirth says there’s been about a 30-percent increase in trail use over the past year.

“People are going to get out into nature in one way or another and what trails do they tend to guide people where the tread is good and the trail can be built so it’s sustainable,” said Hauswirth.

“There are lots of ways for the community to and their will be continually more opportunities for the community to get involved,” said Denham. “So if folks out there in having direct say on what what happens on these properties or how that happens on these properties, would love you to contact us and get involved. As we’re going throughout the summer, we’ll be hosting community input sessions. We’re not exactly sure how that’s going to look right now. And then of course, once we’ve purchased the property, we’ve fundraised all of the necessary funds for building the trails and putting on educational programs and installing signage we are absolutely going to need the communities help to make this program a success as we bought the property.”

To donate to the project, text DRCF to 44-321 or click here to learn more.

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