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Trail restoration project celebrates completion

Aidan Reilly/DMG Daryl St. John of the Keweenaw ATV Club wields the big scissors at the Trail No. 3 Completion Ceremony surrounded by DNR officials and excited stakeholders in Dollar Bay Thursday. Nearly $11 million went into repairing the section of trail damaged in the Father’s Day Flood of 2018.

Supporters and partners joined the Michigan Department of Natural Resources today in Houghton County to celebrate the reopening of a roughly 8-mile segment of snowmobile and off-road vehicle trail devastated by a historic storm in 2018.

In what is likely the Michigan DNR’s largest trail repair project, $10.5 million was spent for work that took contributions of time, money and expertise from numerous sources and years to complete.

“The bottom line of why we do this stuff and why we spend the money and the resources and that’s to provide people with an enrichment and in the end it’s lifelong memories,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “‘Cause when you ride down a trail like this, what you remember is what’s important and the experience that you have.”

Olson said the trail also provides opportunities beyond economic benefits and tourism for improved health and well-being. He said a trail outing can help reduce stress.

“You can ease yourself and you can enjoy yourself and forget about some of the problems of the day,” Olson said.

The Father’s Day flood in June 2018 dumped 7 inches of rain over the Houghton-Hancock area in the span of only a few hours.

Coupled with the steep terrain of the surrounding hills, the rain rushing downhill washed out or plugged numerous culverts and damaged or destroyed roads, homes, streets, trails and other places where the water sought its level.

Among these features was the Dollar Bay to Lake Linden segment of Trail No. 3, which was constructed from a decommissioned railroad line.

In the wake of the historic storm, repair work was needed at 171 sites along the 7.8 miles of recreation trail. Just over 100 culverts needed to be replaced and 34 major washouts needed repair.

“Some of the washouts were 80-feet deep and 240-feet across,” said Ron Yesney, Upper Peninsula trails coordinator for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.

The damage to this part of the trail was so great that many feared the trail segment might never be rebuilt. But with the help and considerable efforts of several state agencies, lawmakers and other partners, the nearly $11 million project to reopen the trail has now been realized.

“Getting this project engineered and constructed was a monumental task,” Yesney said. “I’m real proud of the effort to restore this trail and I am thankful to all those who participated in the reconstruction.”

Speakers at today’s ribbon-cutting commemoration, along the trail in Dollar Bay, included Olson, Yesney and DNR U.P. Field Deputy Stacy Welling-Haughey and state 110th District Rep. Greg Markkanen, Daryl St. John of the Keweenaw ATV Club and Ryan LaPorte of the Keweenaw Snowmobile Club.

“This trail is just incredible,” Markkanen said. “I want to commend the DNR for their commitment to this project, and they finally get it done, everyone’s here today, it’s just a very emotional moment.”

Markkanen also praised the “phenomenal” work done by construction crews on the trail restoration project.

He applauded restored access to recreation opportunities going north from Dollar Bay to Lake Linden.

“It’s so important to our economy, to our local businesses, to our groups and to our communities as a whole,” Markkanen said.

Those gathered for the ceremony stood on the trail behind a red ribbon drawn tautly to be cut by St. John in celebration of the trail work’s completion.

“Everyone here had something to do with this, please come and stand here with us,” Haughey said.

About 60 people attended the event.

Funding for the $10.5 million project was derived from numerous sources, including $4 million in a state general fund appropriation allocated through the Michigan Economic Development Corp., $2 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, $2.1 million from state ORV funds compiled from fiscal years beginning in 2018, $1.5 million in federal Land and Water Conservation Fund granting and $.5 million in snowmobile program money.

DNR partners on the project included the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, B&B Contracting, DP Construction, Bacco Construction Co., MD Contracting, Blue Line Sit Solutions and OHM Advisors.

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