By Garrett Neese
TAMARACK CITY - The upper portion of Hungarian Falls has been protected for permanent public access.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Miller/Keweenaw Land Trust
Houghton County’s Hungarian Falls is seen in this undated photo. The Keweenaw Land Trust purchased the upper portion of the falls this month from Torch Lake Township for $25,000.
The Keweenaw Land Trust recently finalized the purchase of a 10-acre parcel from Torch Lake Township. It includes the top portion of the Hungarian Falls, a historic dam and woodland trails that connect to the adjoining state lands, which includes the downstream portion of the falls.
"The land trust really thanks the community for stepping up to support it and make it possible," said KLT Executive Director Evan McDonald. "We hope the community will enjoy it for many years to come."
The Torch Lake Area Fire Protection Authority had used the water behind the dam to put out fires. But last summer, Osceola Township and Tamarack City put a new system on line for their communities, reducing the demand on the Torch Lake system, said Torch Lake Township Supervisor Brian Cadwell.
McDonald credited Cadwell for his work on the acquisition, saying he had been "very helpful and supportive of our goals."
Keeping the land open for the public is a win-win, Cadwell said.
"We're very happy that the sale was able to occur with a public entity, so that the property will stay in public hand and remain open to the public," he said. "It's a beautiful area and it had served its purpose with the township for fire protection needs for many years."
Some improvements, such as a sign, informational kiosk and picnic tables could happen as soon as this fall, McDonald said.
This semester, Stan Vitton's civil engineering senior design class at Michigan Technological University is tackling the land for its project, McDonald said. The work will include assessing the condition of structures and options for managing the property - in particular, a dam.
McDonald said some of that work could be started as soon as next summer.
"As part of their project, they will work up cost estimates," he said. "That's going to dictate what it's going to be possible for us to do."
Some of the money the KLT raised is also going to its endowment fund for long-term stewardship of the project, including the sign, picnic tables and insurance.
"We hope to be able to do more projects like this in the future, especially when the community has indicated the special places that they want to see protected," McDonald said.
The KLT will hold a celebration/open house at the Hungarian Falls sometime in mid-October.