Republic to add 20-plus campsites

REPUBLIC – With the combined help of grants from the state of Michigan and local mining entities, Republic Township is moving forward with a project to construct or upgrade as many as 21 campground sites along the east side of Michigamme River and near School Lake.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources last year awarded Republic a $172,200 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant for a $246,000 project to build a combination of recreational vehicle and rustic, walk-in sites, with Republic to provide 30 percent, or $73,800, in matching funds and work in kind, plus necessary administrative costs.

But Township Supervisor Gary Johnson said coming up with that kind of money would have been a real challenge.

“We were going to scratch,” he said. “Let’s face it, we were going to scratch to try and come up with that $75,(000). Man, that’s a lot of money for a little community.”

Luckily, township resident and chair of the planning commission Dan Mitchell thought maybe the Cliffs/Eagle Mine Marquette County Community Fund could help.

“We qualify for most grants because of the low-income level of our people, so (Mitchell) thought, ‘Well let’s just see if Cliffs/Eagle Foundation would want to help out an ex-mining community,'” Johnson said. “And bingo – it came through.”

When the community fund recently announced the recipients of its second round of grants, Republic discovered that it would receive $75,000 – covering its entire required match amount.

“We’re extremely excited,” said township treasurer Tina Koski, “because that whole area has been used for the last 20-plus years when … the (Republic) Sportsmen’s Club holds the annual fishing derby in July. And there’s many areas where some people can hook up to electric, but there’s no water – and then we (have to) put Port-A-Potties out – where this (project) can give more amenities.”

Bill Sanders of Marquette-based architectural firm Sanders & Czapski Associates is the landscape architect on the project and will meet with the township’s recreation committee on Monday to go over site designs.

“What we’ll be doing there is basically reviewing the scope of the work from the grant application and make sure we all have the same understanding of the items reviewed in the project,” he said.

He added that while the project is still in the early stages, his preliminary designs call for 10 RV and 11 “walk-in tent sites” that he said will be somewhat tucked back in the woods off the road.

There will also be restroom and water facilities at the campgrounds, as well as picnic areas on School Lake. And the campground park will meet with the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, which borders the north side of the lake.

Koski added that they also want to install a kiosk where campers can consult a map of all the area trails, including through the nearby Republic Wetlands.

The next step once designs are finalized, Sanders said, will be to solicit bids for and potentially begin work on the project in the next couple months.

“With any luck, we’ll see some construction toward the end of the summer, early fall,” he said.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is