Local group wants city to be named a Trail Town

MARQUETTE – A local hiking group wants people to know at least one thing about Marquette: A trail runs through it.

The North Country Trail Hikers, the first chartered chapter of the North Country Trail Association, wants Marquette to receive Trail Town designation.

Being named a Trail Town creates a relationship between the town and its community, trail and the NCTA.

Lorana Jinkerson, president of the NCT Hikers and a member of NCTA board of directors, spoke to the Marquette Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Monday about Marquette becoming a Trail Town.

The North Country National Scenic Trail at 4,600 miles long is the longest of the national scenic trails, stretching from New York to North Dakota.

The NCT Hikers take care of the section of the trail that runs from Rock River Road in western Alger County, through Marquette County to the Long Lake outlet in eastern Baraga County – more than 100 miles.

The trail, which is marked by blue blazes, encompasses local natural gems such as Little Presque Isle, the McCormick Wilderness Area and Wetmore Landing. It also includes the Holly Greer Bike Path in Marquette, which follows the Lake Superior shoreline.

Jim Matteson, an NCT Hikers member, said he is in favor of the city being a Trail Town.

“I think it’d be great for the city of Marquette and actively promote hiking on the trail,” Matteson said. “I think it’d be a win-win for both organizations.”

Jinkerson said Marquette being named a Trail Town would support the North Country Trail’s hikers and enhance the trail as a resource to be “protected and celebrated.”

The designation would include the trail in community planning, identify its amenities on maps, encourage its inclusion in business planning and basically adopt the trail as part of the community.

Karl Zueger, city community services director, asked if there would be use limitations.

Jinkerson said that in the wooded sections of the trail, it would be restricted to foot traffic only, but would include bicyclists on the bike path. The NCTA understands the multiple-use concept.

However, Jinkerson pointed out the trail is meant to be primarily for hiking.

“We’re not going to let bikes go all the way to Craig Lake,” she said.

The city still has control and use over its part of the trail, Jinkerson stressed.

The benefits to the community if Marquette receives a Trail Town designation include the city being considered more of a tourism destination as well as better environment because of a well-maintained trail and more outdoor activities, she said.

St. Ignace, Middleville, Lowell, Petoskey, Kalkaska and Mackinaw City are the other Michigan towns with a Trail Town designation.

In the Upper Peninsula, the North Country Trail runs through St. Ignace, Grand Marais, Munising, Marquette and Ironwood. That includes a large wild swath beginning with Marquette.

“From Marquette to Ironwood, there are no other towns on the trail” Jinkerson said. “It’s all woods.”

The designation is a cooperative agreement between the NCTA and the town, in this case the Marquette City Commission would make the decision about the designation. Jinkerson said she is scheduled to speak to the commission Nov. 25 and probably the subsequent meeting, after which the commission could decide whether to approve moving forward with the agreement.

If so, then Marquette will become an NCTA Trail Town and she will start working with businesses to support it by offering services to hikers.

These services could include posting signs saying they support hikers and possibly giving discounts to long-distance hikers coming to town.

“Up until now, we have had so few long-distance hikers, but my guess is that we will be getting more and more in the years to come, so business owners downtown close to the trail need to be aware and even offer restroom facilities, if possible,” Jinkerson said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.