Hiawatha NF proposes north-south connector snowmobile trail

MARQUETTE – Hiawatha National Forest officials have proposed developing a new 6.5-mile north-south snowmobile connector route near Dukes in eastern Marquette County.

The project, which is proposed to get under way next year, would connect snowmobile Trail No. 8 near Dukes with Trail 417 near Sand River. Both of those trails are east-west routes.

Forest officials want to develop the trail connector to provide a reliable, groomed snowmobile trail that will help connect Upper Peninsula communities.

“A new snowmobile trail is also needed to improve riding conditions. Sections of Trail 417 follow the Lake Superior shoreline, resulting in occasional poor trail conditions because of high wind off the lake (that) blows snow off the trail, particularly during lean snow years,” Charles Marsh, district ranger for the Rapid River-Manistique District, said in a letter to forest users announcing the project. “This new trail would allow riders to bypass poor trail conditions.”

Marsh said a new trail loop would provide more riding opportunities for snowmobilers, help disperse riders on the trail system and provide economic benefits to communities in the area.

Trail No. 8 – which runs east from Ironwood to Sault Ste. Marie – is one of the most highly-traveled trails in the Upper Peninsula and the state. The trail connects more than 30 communities, including Grand Marais, Little Lake and Ishpeming in the local area and Bergland and Sidnaw farther west.

Marsh said an estimated 40,000 riders use Trail No. 8 each winter.

Trail 417 winds east from Marquette into Alger County, past the Rock River Road, then south toward the Chatham area.

Development of the trail would use parts of existing forest roads and an abandoned Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad grade. The grade would cover 2.5 miles with another 2.5 miles of Forest Road 2918 used. along with 1.5 miles of Forest Road 2915. Forest Road 2924 would also be used for a tenth of a mile.

The designated route would be improved as a snowmobile trail and use by off-road vehicles would be prohibited. Gates would be installed at four locations to block motorized outside the snowmobile season. Signs would also be erected.

The proposal is available on the Hiawatha National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/projects/hiawatha/landmanagement/projects.

More information on the Dukes Snowmobile Trail Project is available from Anne Okonek, west zone recreation program manager, at 474-6442.

Comments on the project were requested by June 19. They may be emailed to: comments-eastern-hiawatha@fs.fed.us, faxed to Okonek at 474-9122 or mailed to her at Rapid River-Manistique Ranger District, 8181 U.S. 2, Rapid River, MI 49878.

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