Negaunee takes lead in preserving mining heritage, by Kristy Basolo

In March, nine governmental units will receive the articles of incorporation for what will be the Iron Ore Heritage Recreational Authority. Once the authority is created, it will be the largest of its kind in the state.
Three cities and six townships are involved with the project, including Negaunee, Ishpeming and Marquette; and Chocolay, 0703lpngEly, Humbolt, Negaunee, Marquette and Tilden townships. Previously, each governmental unit had passed resolutions of support for the project, which plans to be an important tourist attraction for the county.
Carol Fulsher of the Lake Superior Community Partnership said the project is getting the attention of statewide officials, as proven by the grant money that has been pouring in. She said groups involved appreciate the investment the state is making in mining heritage, and expects the investment will be repaid.
“We’re working toward a millage vote to establish the authority in the November 2008 general election,” Fulsher said.
The center of the heritage area is the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a concept that has been explored for almost ten years, which proposes a linear, nonmotorized park connecting multiple cities and townships with one thing in common—mining heritage.
The forty-mile connection would take tourists from Republic to Marquette, with stops along the way at museums, plants, railways and other mining-related sites.
The trail would encourage visitors to explore the rich mining history in the area by stopping at indoor sites such as the Marquette Maritime Museum, Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee Township, Negaunee History Museum, Cliff’s Shaft Mining Museum in Ishpeming and Pascoe House History Museum in Republic.
Once completed, the spine trail will link these important historical sites, but it will be up to the individual communities to connect and market their own landmarks.
“We’re fortunate that the state sees fit to invest in this project,” Negaunee city manager Gerald Peterson said.
On the forefront of the development is the City of Negaunee, which is working actively to develop “Old Town,” one area the trail passes through.
The first section of the trail to be paved runs from the Negaunee Senior Center west to the Brownstone in Ishpeming; it is expected to be operational in Spring 2008. A Michigan Department of Transportation conditional commitment for $400,120 was received to further this project.
“We’re trying to break this project into manageable components, taking pieces we can accomplish and getting them done,” Peterson said. “We’re putting our best foot forward.”
The City of Negaunee formed an ad hoc committee of volunteer residents who are taking on the task of making recommendations to the city council for interpretation of sites that would be connected to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. Subcommittees were formed to write grants, offer direction for historical interpretation, plan and name connecting trails and coordinate Pioneer Day events with the Old Town theme.
“We’ve received enthusiastic and informed input at these meetings,” Peterson said.
The Old Town ad hoc committee meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of the month in the Negaunee Senior Center. Interested residents are encouraged to attend.
The LSCP has put out a request for proposal for a public art installation in the Old Town area, near the Heritage Trail route west of Negaunee. Artists are asked to interpret three areas: the first iron ore discovery site; the Jackson Mine, which is the first iron ore mine in the Lake Superior region; and the missing community, which consists of steps and foundations of homes and businesses that were relocated once the mines and area was closed to the public. The deadline is March 16. For details, contact the LSCP at 226-6591.
In addition, Negaunee officials arranged a meeting with Ted Ligibel, the director of the historic preservation program at Eastern Michigan University to discuss his potential involvement with the project.
“We’re interested to work with him and his students to get a report and recommendation for preservation and interpretation of Pit #1,” Peterson said.
While there is a lot of planning going on, Peterson said residents can expect to see progress in the near future, including improvement of existing trails in Old Town, signage installed and exciting events during Negaunee’s Pioneer Days in July.
“Our goal is to create a market in Negaunee that doesn’t now exist for bikers, snowmobilers, ATVers and cultural tourism,” Peterson said.
Negaunee needs to capitalize on the gems and resources it has, and Peterson said strong city council leadership and hard work that has gone on behind the scenes has kick-started the process.
“We need steady progress so we can show the community volunteers they are supported in these efforts,” he said. “It’ll never be as fast as people want it to be, but we’re in the hard work part of transforming a community vision into reality.”
Visit www.ironoreheritage.com or www.cityofnegaunee.org for details
—Kristy Basolo

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