Local areas in line to receive trust money

MARQUETTE – The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board has recommended more than $23 million in projects across the state, including several in the Upper Peninsula.

One of two recommended projects in Marquette County is a $281,000 extension of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, which will run 4.8 miles from Ishpeming’s Winthrop Junction to Ely Township.

Carol Fulsher, administrator for the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority, said the funding would help expand the trail westward.

“Our plan is a 48-mile trail. This just adds another five miles to approximately 30 miles of upgraded trail that we have from Chocolay Township through to Ishpeming,” Fulsher said. “We are still in the midst of doing our big project – Negaunee to Marquette – but we wanted to look ahead.”

Fulsher said the trust fund has been “a good partner” in helping the recreation authority build its network of trails. The Negaunee to Marquette project was also financed through the trust fund, and Fulsher said 2012 offered good conditions for much of the work to be completed.

“With the warmer weather we had this fall and the snow coming so late, they were really able to get some really good progress made on the trail,” Fulsher said. “We just quit working on that portion of the trail right before Christmas. It’s coming along really spectacularly.”

The trust fund board is also recommending $88,800 to the city of Marquette for development that will include permanent restrooms at McCarty’s Cove.

The biggest financial recommendation in the U.P. was given to Alger County’s AuTrain Township, with a total of $246,700 for development of the township’s heritage trailhead. The money will be used to develop a universally-accessible combined fishing pier and kayak or canoe launch, a pavilion, an interpretive center, restrooms, two parking lots, interpretive signs, outdoor grills, picnic tables, a boardwalk and to plant milkweed, which is necessary for the Monarch butterfly’s long migration to Mexico.

The city of Munising was recommended for an $86,200 grant to build a universal access site on Munising Bay near the Anna River. Development would include improvements to and expansion of a universally-accessible fishing pier, construction of a vault toilet, site landscaping and construction of a universally accessible kayak launch.

The trust fund board examined a total of 142 applications seeking nearly $38 million in funding in 2012.

It chose to recommend 76 of those projects to the Michigan Legislature for review as part of the appropriations process. The legislature will then forward a bill to the governor for his approval.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands and development of projects for resource protection and outdoor recreation.

It is funded through gas and oil leases on state land. In 1985, Michigan voters chose to make the fund part of Michigan’s constitution, ensuring the program’s future.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.