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ORV route between Hancock and Dollar Bay closed temporarily in Houghton County

County health department advisory reissued until further notice

The Lake Linden Trail, between the Portage Lift Bridge and Dollar Bay, in Houghton County has been closed temporarily based on a local public health and safety advisory.

In reissuing its health advisory Thursday, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department asked the public to avoid activity – including ORV use, walking and biking – until further notice around three scrapyard properties in Ripley.

This area covers about two-thirds of a mile, but with no viable trail reroute available, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been forced to close the entire trail section from Hancock to Dollar Bay.

“The DNR had hoped to avoid closing the trail,” said Jeff Kakuk, a trails specialist with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “However, we feel this was our only option to ensure public safety.”

The DNR has been working closely with all agencies involved, including the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to develop a plan that enables the trail to reopen and, more importantly, be safe for public use.

“Sampling and evaluation conducted last summer by various state agencies concluded that many physical and chemical hazards are present in the Ripley waterfront area including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, mercury and asbestos, in addition to other physical and chemical hazards that have the potential to cause trail users illness and injury,” the advisory reads.

“Of special concern is the presence of asbestos containing material on, or near, the ORV trail, as ATVs and other trail users agitate the soil, the asbestos fibers can become airborne in dust and travel beyond the contaminated properties. Use of the trail should be avoided as exposure to asbestos can cause damage to the lungs and increase the risk of developing cancer.”

In fall 2019, the Western U.P. Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services advised the public to avoid use of that trail section based on contamination. The DNR took immediate measures to restrict access to contaminated sections of the trail and to direct users around those locations.

The contamination to DNR lands was a result of stored materials on property adjacent to the trail. The advisory was lifted when snow covered the trail surface. It has now been reinstated.

“Communication between agencies has been outstanding and we each understand our roles in order for the trail to reopen,” Kakuk said. “There are some delays in our work planning due to the coronavirus, but the DNR remains confident that the trail will be able to reopen later this season for recreational use.”

Once the contamination is mitigated, the DNR will cap the recreational trail with gravel to ensure the public can safely recreate.

The remaining section of the Lake Linden Trail – from Dollar Bay to Lake Linden – has been closed since June 2018, when historic flooding produced numerous trail washouts.

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