ONTONAGON, Mich. (WJMN) – Two real estate transactions have secured permanent trail easements that will help ensure winter trail connectivity in the Western Upper Peninsula.
The easements add 67 miles of trail at a total purchase price of $985,969. Ron Yesney, U.P. trails coordinator with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, says the funding came from several places including a Michigan Permanent Snowmobile Easement Fund and Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
“This has been an ongoing process for us to try to secure long-term rights to our motorized trail system and that was originally initiated by the snowmobilers in the State of Michigan they passed a law in 2011 that contributes eight dollars of every snowmobile trail registration towards a fund to purchase permanent trail easements for current and future generations,” said Yesney.
The DNR previously had year-to-year land-use agreements with the property owners. Yesney says two different acquisitions took place in December that purchased trail easements in Dickinson, Iron, Houghton, Ontonagon and Gogebic Counties.
“A lot of those are like trail segments or pieces of trails that belong to corporate landowners but helped connect us to public lands so there will be quite a bit of trail on federal property and then there’d be a short segment that was on private land and then it went back to public property so we’re trying to connect this all together without being reliant upon the year to year agreements that we had with the private landowners,” said Yesney.
Yesney says the year-to-year agreements are good because they have the trials but they face uncertainty with trail closures and reroutes.
“The biggest impact for the Western Upper Peninsula is that is in a lot of these places these small outlying rural communities the economies are largely driven by our trails and by the recreational users who use the facilities in these communities and the nice thing about a permanent trail system is that that trail system is going to be there and that’s something that the people that use the trail count on in the future but it’s also very important that the businesses they can rely on it in the future because we’ve lost trails, we’ve had trail closures occur which have cut off communities which in turn cut off businesses which in turn lead to more problems,” said Yesney.
The land will be managed by the Upper Peninsula Region of the Trails Section of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, in conjunction with seven snowmobile clubs and three off-road vehicle clubs. Yesney says coordination with snowmobile and off-road vehicle clubs is important to the maintenance of trails.
“Folks need to recognize how much volunteer effort really goes into creating, maintaining, developing these trail systems because the DNR certainly doesn’t have the horsepower or the capacity to do it all ourselves,” said Yesney. “We do a lot of the grant reimbursements, we do a lot of the grant writing and issue the grants and the reimbursement dollars but it’s not DNR staff out doing the grooming at one o’clock in the morning or doing the signing or brushing I mean sometimes it is but most of the times it’s a group of volunteers that are working on behalf of a club.”
Yesney says this is the largest permanent easement purchase they’ve made. To find where you can ride, visit the DNR’s website for both interactive and printable maps.