Steve Hamilton has been waiting four years for this moment.
“It was pretty emotional. We’re pretty passionate about trails up here in our area and finally getting that access that we’ve talked with them about for so many years. It was one of the brighter days we’ve had as a club, that’s for sure,” said Hamilton.
As President of the Gogebic Range Trail Authority Snowmobile and ORV Club, Hamilton’s been working with Keweenaw Land Association, the Michigan DNR, and other partners to secure the land need for motorized trails in the Upper Peninsula.
That work paid off last week when he got the news Keweenaw Land Association had finalized the sale of land easement for 53 miles of trails to the DNR. Michigan paid nearly $833,000 for the land use.
Keweenaw said it does retain the right to use the trails as needed for business purposes, including logging, and to re-route or temporarily close trails as needed for safety purposes. The easement eliminates the need for annual use agreements and guarantees public trail access into perpetuity.
“Often times when there’s dual use, commercial and recreation use, on the same trail at the same time. Our wonderful insurance agents tend to get a little heartburn over that idea. Often times that results in trails being closed down either temporarily and sometimes regretfully permanently,” said Hamilton.
This sale is meant prevent those trails closure from happening.
The land is broken up and spread out over the western Upper Peninsula, but each stretch is a key part in connecting the system.
Hamilton is most excited for what it means for a popular ORV trail in Ironwood, Trail 160.
“What this acquisition did is eliminate a 10-mile road route due to the bridge that we had put in previously, we were not able to open up for ORV use,” said Hamilton. “Now that the DNR owns permanent motorized recreational easements on it, we’re going to be able to open up that bridge for our local riding population as well as our new tourism industry that’s kind of firing up here with ORV trails expanding in our area.”
While snowmobilers and ATV riders maybe be excited to explore the newly secured trails, Hamilton says they’ll need to exercise patience.
“The clubs need to go through their process and make sure that all the ducks are in a row, the insurance documentation matches up, exact GPS coordinates of the routes are understood and conveyed back to the DNR,” said Hamilton.