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Economic development and outdoor recreation two concerns of land purchase

KEWEENAW COUNTY — As part of the planning process for the proposed purchase of 32,000-plus acres in eastern Keweenaw County, John Molinaro, consultant for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan and the Department of Natural Resources, met with the Keweenaw ATV Club in April.

There was a meeting with representatives from each group — fishing, hunting, trapping, bikes, ATV and snowmobiles — to establish how the land will be managed after a change of ownership, according to the April meeting minutes of the club.

The minutes said that people are concerned how different activities — like hunting and fishing — will be handled with the purchase.

In addition to concerns of outdoor enthusiasts, there are many other considerations the 13-member planning committee, all local residents, are looking at, including economic development.

At a public meeting conducted in Calumet on Tuesday at which Molinaro was the primary speaker, he said there are three existing businesses which have requested the opportunity to purchase parcels of land that are related to what they are doing now in the area.

One is Lonie Glieberman’s Mount Bohemia, which currently owns the land beneath its “base camp.” Mount Bohemia, he said, owns the shoreline it uses, as well as all of the land along Lac La Belle Road.

It does not, however, own the land up on the mountain where some of its ski trails are located.

“They lease it,” Molinaro said. “They have 75 years left on their lease and their lease allows them to do anything at all on that land, for 75 years.”

They would like to own the property if they can acquire it, he said.

The second business is the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, owned by John Mueller. The lands the lodge would like to acquire are east of the property owned by the lodge, which historically, were built by the Works Progress Administration in the early 1930s. They included stables and other utility structures.

“Some of that land would just be buffer,” said Molinaro, “and they have offered to purchase some of that.”

The third business is Rock Solid, the company that has built most of the mountain bike trails in the area. They have expressed a desire to purchase the property on which some of its trails have been built.

Helen Taylor, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, who was also at the meeting, said that from a practical standpoint, the businesses that have expressed the desire to purchase those lands are part of the ability of the TNC and the DNR to pay for the proposed land purchase, but it does not stop there.

While TNC and the DNR are aware of the community’s challenges, such as adequate parking, affordable housing, trail usage and other aspects that respond to the demands of tourism, TNC is hoping that the whole process helps inform what happens.

“So, it is not limited to those three (businesses) that John described,” she said. “Part of what we’re trying to figure out … how we would pay for this. We do a lot of fundraising, but this is a pretty pricey ticket.”

Currently, she said, neither TNC nor the DNR have an agreement with The Rohatyn Group, which owns the timberland, but they are hoping to negotiate a price that all parties can agree on. There are two appraisals being conducted, she said, that should be completed by the end of this month.

“And we’ll see if we can come to an agreement then,” she said.

But in attempting to address the financial aspect of the purchase, she said, TNC has been in conversations with the state and other government entities, to learn what they would be willing to own or purchase in order for the proposal to succeed financially.

Brad Carlson, Forest Resources Division dupervisor for Unit No. 11 in Baraga, said that while it is still up to debate on the DNR’s purchasing some 9,000 acres on Keweenaw Point, the FRD is interested in purchasing at least the eastern 4,000 acres as the first priority, while the second priority would be to acquire another 5,000 acres for the Parks Division of the DNR.

“But like I said,” said Carlson, “if we do acquire the entire 9,000 acres, we’re going to have meetings to see what best fits for each division,” adding that both parcels would have a management plan.

The land has been a major concern to many people, both in Keweenaw County and beyond, since AMF Real Estate, representing TRG, announced marketing approximately 32,661 acres of property during the last week of June 2021.

Referred to as the Heartland Property, the acreage, as of June 28 of last year, was listed in four separate packages:

• The Point, approximately 10,080 GIS Acres – $12,090,000

• Harbor View, approximately 5,749 GIS Acres – $6,908,000

• Keweenaw, Alpine approximately 9,769 GIS Acres – $14,650,000

• Little Betsy Shoreline, approximately 7,063 GIS Acres – $9,545,000

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