New ORV route links U.P. trails

GREENLAND – A new 70-mile Ottawa Eastern Connector off-road vehicle route opened recently in the western Upper Peninsula, providing an important link for three established ORV trail routes in the area.

“It’s a beauty,” said Linda Schulz, secretary of the Michigan Trails and Recreation Alliance of Land and Environment. “The trail is tremendous.”

Creation of the new route was a cooperative venture dating back over the past several years. Schulz said several north-south connector route proposals had been submitted to federal officials and rejected since 2006. Efforts were then shifted over the past two years to focus on developing a single route.

The process included the initial submission to Ottawa National Forest officials, followed by scoping sessions with public comment solicited and addressing questions and concerns.

In April, MI-TRALE received approval for its proposal for the new route.

Schulz said the U.S. Forest Service personnel with the Ottawa National Forest were tremendous to work with.

“We built a very strong relationship with them over the past two years,” Schulz said.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources approved a request in August to have the new route designated as a state ORV route. Off-road vehicles of all sizes are permitted on the new connector route, which will be maintained by the DNR.

“The route is mostly tree-covered and runs through a remote area of the Upper Peninsula, utilizing county roads and forest service roads, and passing by many inland lakes and streams,” said Rob Katona, DNR Upper Peninsula trails analyst. “MI-TRALE did a lot of work over the past six years to make this happen. It took dedication and a lot of communication to lay the groundwork for this.”

The new trail -which opened with a MI-TRALE ride Aug. 31- runs south from near Greenland in Ontonagon County, through Rousseau in Houghton County to Sidnaw and south to a point about 12 miles north of Iron River in Iron County.

While also traversing the Ottawa National Forest, the new trail connects three east-west ORV routes including the Bill Nicholls route in the north, the Bergland to Sidnaw route in the central part of the area and the Iron River to Marenisco route in the south.

“Local businesses along the route provide places for riders to stop off, grab a bite to eat, refuel or spend the night,” said Don Helsel, president of MI-TRALE. “It’s great for the local economy and convenient for ORV riders.”

Schulz said about eight MI-TRALE members rode for about 110 miles over trails, including the new connector, on its opening day. Along the way, riders were seen out enjoying the new route.

“That was very exciting for us, to know that other people were out there and knew this trail was open,” Schulz said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Ottawa Eastern Connector route is scheduled for next May.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is