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Houghton-Keweenaw rec plan discussed

Authority for year-round trail system mulled

December 12, 2012
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - A proposed authority for a year-round trail system in Houghton and Keweenaw counties was the topic of discussion at Tuesday's Houghton County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Calumet Township Supervisor Paul Lehto said the Houghton-Keweenaw Recreation Authority would be solely intended to pursue easements with the 100 or so miles of trail in Houghton County on private property.

"They only exist because of year-to-year agreements with all these landowners," he said. "Any lawsuit could shut these down tomorrow. Any reason the county wanted to get out could shut these down tomorrow."

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Calumet Township Supervisor Paul Lehto addresses the Houghton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Some were also concerned about the potential for millages. Voters would be able to approve up to two-tenths of a mill in a millage, or up to two mills in a bond proposal. The vote would have to take place during a statewide election.

Commissioner Anton Pintar said most of the funding, at least initially, would come from sources such as grants.

"They can go for a millage, but that has to go through voters," he said.

Franklin Township Trustee Mary Sears disapproved of a countywide millage.

"We're outnumbered," she said. "Our townships are going to get slammed."

Bill Manderfield asked why people should pay taxes for services used by a smaller portion of people, including those from out of the area.

"We do not want to raise our property taxes for people to play," he said.

Lehto said they would pursue Department of Natural Resources money or snowmobile and ATV money from the state. In talking with State Rep.-Elect Scott Dianda, Lehto also heard of a movement in the state to trade some of the state's 4.4 million acres for other public land.

"If you gave Lake Superior Land 100,000 acres or 50,000 acres of property, would they give us all their easements to the trails we own?" Lehto asked.

Evan McDonald, executive director of the Keweenaw Land Trust, said he hopes the proposal moves forward.

"It will take partnership and groups feeling like an equal party and stakeholders in their efforts," he said.

Chair Ed Jenich said the board would not make a decision to join until after the new members elected this year take office.

"In the meantime, it'll give us an opportunity to do some research, give you an opportunity to do some research, and answer any questions you bring forth to the two new commissioners on this board to make a decision," he said.

In other action, the board:

approved a position for a deputy register of deeds.

approved a remonumentation grant request.

adopted 2012 waterway fees.

approved the formation of a committee to address the loss of a tenant in the Department of Human Services building in Hancock.

approved a payment request on the courthouse lighting project and change order.

met as a Committee of the Whole with incoming board members after the meeting.



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