Trail levy rejection unfortunate for Ely Township

It appears the majority of voters in Ely Township don’t want to help fund the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, which runs about five miles through the heart of the western Marquette County township.

At least that’s the message that was sent by voters Tuesday, when a request for .2 mills was defeated. A similar request was shot down at the polls in 2008 and 2012.

Although the vote was relatively close – 165 yes to 185 no – we find it difficult to grasp that a millage asking for 20 cents on each dollar of taxable value on real property would be defeated at all.

For example, on a home with a taxable value of $100,000, the annual tax would have been $20 per year. The total revenues from the millage levy would have been $9,800 the first year.

What would the residents get in return? A well-built, well-maintained section of a trail that is sure to become one of the top-traveled trails in the central Upper Peninsula.

The trail – which celebrates the role iron ore mining has played in the region – will run about 48 miles from Republic to Kawbawgam Road in Chocolay Township.

The Iron Ore Heritage Trail Authority, which oversees the pathway, can not improve or maintain the section of trail that runs through Ely Township without residents coming on board and participating in the millage – which all other taxing units the trail runs through except neighboring Humboldt Township have done.

Revenues from the millage not only pay for management of the trail, but also helps leverage grants, including a handful the authority has received from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

In addition to a fine hiking, walking and bicycle trail, many sections – including the one through Ely Township – were pegged to have a parallel motorized trail to allow for ATVs and snowmobiles, which should have removed any objections to the millage that motorized enthusiasts may have had.

Trail authority administrator Carol Fulsher said the trail that runs through Ely Township is state owned and is open to the public. However, without participation in the authority the section can not be improved – which would include resurfacing, installation of a trailhead, interpretive signs and milage markers – nor maintained.

On the positive side, Fulsher said there are several projects elsewhere on the trail that will be undertaken this year and in the years ahead.

We just find it unfortunate that not all residents along the route are throwing their support behind the effort.