Motorized use an experiment for Heritage trail

There will be some some changes to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail this season, with westbound parts of the trail to differ from its traditional use.

The Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority plans to add five more miles of trail, spending about $400,000 this summer ($281,00 of which will come from a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant) to clear and grade two sections of the trail in Republic and Tilden townships. Those sections then will be surfaced with crushed limestone.

What makes these parts of the trail different from past trail projects is that they will be open to motorized as well as non-motorized use.

IOHRA administrator Carol Fulsher likened this scenario to a “guinea pig.” How will the two types of uses be managed? That remains to be seen, she said.

The authority will let multiple uses take place on the same trail because much of those trail sections will cross wetlands using an existing grade that’s too narrow, precluding the use of a side-by-side trail with a barrier in between.

The existing dirt trail travels west from Ishpeming through Tilden, Ely and Humboldt townships before turning south through Republic Township. The historic Republic bank building will be the trailhead and southern terminus.

The trail section passing through Ely and Humboldt will stay the same for now because a recreation tax levy of .2 mill for building and maintaining part of the Ely portion failed in 2013.

Republic Township is being proactive to acquire grant money to renovate the bank building with handicap-accessible restrooms, with IOHRA pledging up to $25,000 in matching funds to help the township.

Nearby areas might be improved as well. Republic Township’s recreation committee also is looking into creating campground space, rental piers and a boardwalk in nearby Munson Park and on the north side of School Lake, which borders the trail.

With limited funds and and geographic limitations, the authority has to adapt to make the best and all-inclusive use of the trail.

To some, motorized travelers using the same stretch as bicyclists might conjure up images of accidents and at the very least a few verbal altercations.

However, we’d like to think people, particularly trail users, are for the most part reasonable, and should support the authority’s efforts to make the Iron Ore Heritage Trail truly a multi-use trail.