Iron Ore Heritage Trail ribbon cutting

ISHPEMING – More than 100 people – including Gov. Rick Snyder and several other area and state officials – gathered at the Iron Ore Heritage Trail across from the Negaunee Senior Center for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in celebration of the completion of the newest section of trail.

“We’re cutting the ribbon on what we call ‘Phase Three’ of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail,” said Carol Fulsher, administrator of the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority. “It’s a 12-mile trail that connects Negaunee and Marquette. It’s an important piece, because we had about five miles of paved trail in Ishpeming and Negaunee and we had about 10 miles of paved trail between Harvey and Marquette, but the two didn’t link up, so we needed that connecting piece to start marketing this trail, and of course to start getting people back and forth between the two big population centers in the Upper Peninsula.”

“It’s a historic occasion,” Snyder said. “… It’s about both looking to history, looking back, and to look forward. I love the concept of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, because that’s something that we should all be proud of.”

The newest 12-mile section of trail cost about $2 million and runs from Old Town park in Negaunee and comes into Marquette at the Soo Line bridge, behind the Holiday Inn.

Construction of this section of trail was the most challenging to date, Fulsher said, because it involved a live railroad crossing and significant construction work. In order to obtain the land necessary for the trail, the IOHRA purchased land from the city of Marquette’s Heartwood Forestland Project, and also acquired about 380 acres in a landswap with the state of Michigan and the Northview Company, owned by Peter O’Dovero.

“We had some significant things we had to do on this portion of trail,” Fulsher said. “We had to buy land, because the railroad wouldn’t let us cross the railroad (tracks) unless we owned the land on either side of the railroad tracks.

“This has been a really tough section of trail, and my board has been incredible,” Fulsher said. “I mean, they do not know the word ‘stop’. They will find a way to get through things, and it is … a very big celebration for us … because (there have) been a lot of challenges on this trail and we’re just so very happy to have it open to the public … I think people are really going to enjoy this section, because it’s beautiful scenery, for one thing, but that retaining wall section is absolutely gorgeous.

“… Our trail just provides a lot of different types of trail experience – so you have the Great Lake, you have the inland lakes, you have the old mining property, you have these kind of wet areas where the Carp River flows through, and different birding experiences, there’s granite walls, there’s a retaining wall, so I just think this is going to be an exceptional trail for people to come and use.”

“What I can tell you now, and I hope you believe it in your hearts, our best days are not behind us,” Snyder said. “They’re ahead of us … because of that spirit to say, ‘No is not an acceptable answer,’ about saying, ‘This trail is going to happen.’ That there were so many barriers – as you listen to Carol (Fulsher) go through that list, and listen to the outstanding township and city people talk about the obstacles, the reasons why this trail was not going to happen. And none of it stopped it. It was that attitude to say, ‘We are going to make the old unbelievable, the new achievable.’ That’s the Michigan of the future. That’s the Michigan we’re making now. And you should be proud to be on the front end of that.”

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.