Recreational trails are vital to economic development

Copperharbor.org/Aaron Peterson Copper Harbor Trails Club has worked with many partners over several years to develop the internationally renowned mountain bike trail system, part of which is seen here.

KEWEENAW COUNTY — With the expansion and development of mountain bike trails in Grant Township, particularly in and around Copper Harbor, the impact on local businesses in the township has been huge, said Nathan Miller, executive director of the Copper Harbor Trails Club, and will only continue to increase.

“Just in the last few years, we’ve seen our riders number grow,” Miller said. “Year after year, all of our events are getting more and more popular, so we’re seeing thousands of riders come up per month, and not just in the summer months when the season is prime time, but they’re also coming in the shoulder seasons.”

There has been an increasing shift in recent years from casual tourism to those willing to travel long distances to experience recreational trail use. While the number of vacationers visiting the Keweenaw has not declined, the number of outdoor sports enthusiasts has continually been increasing. This has not only increased business in Grant Township, it has extended the business season, said Miller. Businesses opening in May are benefitting from the presence of bikers, who begin arriving before RVs and families with children begin coming, before tourist season starts in earnest.

“But mountain biking, as soon as the trails are open, the bikers are coming up on the weekends,” Miller explained, “and that’s really important for all the local businesses up in Copper Harbor and Grant Township area.”

Additionally, when most recreational campers and RVers have left by the end of the summer season, bikers continue to come to ride the Keweenaw Peninsula, and they are in need of rooms and restaurants.

The U.P. is seeing an increase in the rapidly growing winter sport of fat-tire biking. Lake Superior Magazine’s Recreation Guide 2018, in an article titled “The Big Fat Deal: In Duluth, Big Tires Pedal by Winter,” writer Konnie LeMay stated: “Many feel like the Upper Peninsula invited the recreation — and goodness knows it has the snow for it — but those snow-conquering bicycles really are making the scene and taking in the scenery on all four shores.”

While the monetary and volunteer investments in the trail systems throughout Grant Township have been large, the returns are now becoming clearly visible, Miller said.

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