Millage key to heritage trail’s success, by Kristy Basolo

Millage key to heritage trail’s success
Use of the first paved length of Iron Ore Heritage Trail between Negaunee and Ishpeming has skyrocketed since completion, and trail users and trail authority members are advocating passage of the millage to spur the project along.
The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is a forty-eight-mile path that traverses Marquette County, highlighting the mining heritage and natural environment along the way.
Volunteers, in conjunction with the Marquette County Health Department, surveyed trail users four hours a day for one week in September. They kept track of numbers, usage and other details that will help in securing future funding.
“During those four hours a day for only one week, over 1,000 people were counted on that section of the trail,” Carol Fulsher, Lake Superior Community Partnership director of recreation development.
The interest in the trail is there, Fulsher said, but funding will be key. Continual funding for the Heritage Trail will be on the November 4 ballot in the form of a millage proposed to the three cities and seven townships involved.
All ten municipalities must pass the millage for the recreation authority to remain intact. The funds would go to build the trail, providing the matching funds needed.
“Two-tenths of a mill isn’t a lot, but it is needed to raise the matching funds needed to get other private, state and federal grant monies,” Fulsher said.
If it doesn’t pass in all municipalities, it will be back to the drawing board for the authority.
“If the millage fails, the municipalities could choose to keep the authority intact, but they would have to find another funding source,” Fulsher said.
The .2 mills equates to twenty cents per $1,000 of taxable value for a period of six years. For most homeowners, that equals between $3 and $10 per year, depending on location.
The money gathered from the millage would be used to leverage State and Federal funding to build, operate and maintain the trail, Fulsher said.
“We need to show local support for this project,” Fulsher said. “It will help us obtain and support the state and federal monies we may get.”
With the millage, the trail is expected to be completed in five years.
In the meantime, trail grand openings will be held in Republic and Negaunee on October 8. Many national and state officials, including Representative Steve Lindberg, Congressman Bart Stupak, Barbara Nelson-Jameson and Marty Strekel from the National Park Service and Sandra Clark from the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, will be on hand for all or part of the festivities.
The event, which is open to the public, begins at 9:00 p.m., with buses leaving from Republic Township Hall to take participants to the Republic Wetlands.
“The wetlands add so much to the experience of the trail,” Fulsher said. “Before, we didn’t have access to this area
The wetlands are on an old mining site and tailings basin for the Republic Mine. It now is home to more than fifty heron nests, osprey, beaver dams, loons and other birds and animals. At the grand opening, Dale Hemmila of CCI will talk about the wetlands and why they were created by CCI. A logo designed by artist Mike Lempinen also will be unveiled.
The grand opening will continue at the trail head on Tobin Street in Downtown Negaunee. Events begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Negaunee Senior Center, located across from the trail.
A pasty luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by tours of local historic buildings. The ribbon cutting ceremony begins at 2:00 p.m. in the senior center, and historic displays, merchandise and information will be available all afternoon.
The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided during the afternoon festivities.
Those who wish to attend the luncheon are asked to RSVP to the center. Cost is $4 for seniors and $4.50 for the general public, with an optional fifty-cent charge for milk or coffee.
Tickets are available in advance only for those wishing to take the guided historic tours of three buildings in the area. Suggested donation is $3 per person. For details or to register for the tour or lunch, call the center at 475-6266.
In the meantime, citizens of Negaunee, Ishpeming and Marquette, as well as Republic, Humboldt, Ishpeming, Chocolay, Ely, Tilden and Negaunee townships are encouraged to find out more about the millage and the recreational authority.
“Everybody gains with it,” Fulsher said. “Without it, everybody loses.”
Citizens are encouraged to contact their representative on the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority for more information on the trail and the millage. The members are as follows:
• Republic Township—Chuck Hurst
• Humboldt Township—Marline Worth
• Ely Township—Julie Hosang
• Tilden Township—Dennis Tonge
• Ishpeming—Larry Bussone
• Negaunee—Jim Thomas
• Negaunee Township—Al Reynolds
• Marquette Township—Karen Lohf
• Marquette—Carol Fulsher
• Chocolay Township—Don Britton
• Marquette County—Harvey Wallace
—Kristy Basolo

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