Ely Township to again place Iron Ore Heritage Trail millage on ballot

ISHPEMING – In May, Ely Township residents will see a millage for the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority on the ballot – for the third time.

On May 7, Ely Township residents will vote on a .2-mill levy that would allow the IOHRA to construct and maintain the portion of the 48-mile trail that runs through Ely Township. The six-year levy would collect revenue from 2013 to 2018 and is estimated to generate $9,800 in the first year. The Ely Township trail will allow motorized and nonmotorized traffic.

“What has changed this time is that we actually have a grant to do work out there,” said Carol Fulsher, IOHRA administrator.

Fulsher said the vote is crucial to that section of the trail because the recreation authority can’t do work in the township until the township joins the authority.

“The only way they can join the authority is if they pass a millage like everybody else did,” Fulsher said.

The IOHRA was recently awarded a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for $281,000. The grant will be used to build 5 miles of trail west from Ishpeming along the Greenwood Grade and will be used to upgrade the nonmotorized portion of the trail. The IOHRA has committed $120,000 as matching funds for the grant to upgrade the motorized portion of the trail.

The first time the millage was on the ballot in Ely Township, in 2008, it was defeated by two votes. IOHRA officials thought it failed because gates were up and blocking the trail, Fulsher said.

“That was the issue we thought prevented the 2008 vote (from passing),” she said. “The DNR worked with the private landowners and the gates came down. We thought that with that issue taken care of it would pass in 2012, so we didn’t do much marketing last time.”

The millage was defeated again in the November 2012 election by a vote of 438 yes to 462 no. Even though the millage has been defeated twice, Fulsher said the IOHRA is hopeful that it will succeed this time.

“(Last time) it was during the November election when there were a lot of ballot issues that people had to sift through,” Fulsher said. “With less on the ballot this time, we feel that people understand what we are doing, that we have a better chance of telling them what’s going on and because we have people out there helping us that are really for this trail.”

If the millage passes, the grant-funded construction work on the Ely Township section could begin in the summer of 2014.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401.