The Copper Harbor Trails Society Inc. also known as Copper Harbor Trails Club (CHTC) is officially a 501C-3 non-profit with a mission to advocate, develop and maintain trails and land for human-powered activities in and connecting to Copper Harbor. What we really are is a bunch of fun people that want to share the joy of mountain biking and other trail based human-powered recreation with all ages. We build sustainable, purpose built trails in and connecting to the tiny, 100 resident town of Copper Harbor. In addition, we partner with organizations that have similar goals and work with them to improve trail access throughout the region. During the other six months of the year (some may call it winter), with the help of volunteer groomers, we maintain a few kilometers of ski trail stretching between the town of Copper Harbor and Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, plus our volunteers groom the Churning Rapids Snow Bike Trails outside Hancock. The Copper Harbor Trails Club also built and helps maintain a 9 hole disc golf course on the grounds of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Basically we love trails and we do what we can to continually improve the system and host events that showcase the trails and support the local economy.
How do we do what we do?
CHTC is a member driven organization, 125+ members strong, with a volunteer board of directors and one paid staff person, an Executive Director, to help keep the wheels moving. To put quality trail on the ground, we contract with Rock Solid Trail Contracting from our little town of Copper Harbor. To fund our trail building efforts, we rely on generous donors, fundraising events, and grant writing.
It’s expensive to build great trails especially in Copper Harbor’s rugged, rocky terrain. Trail development can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000+ per mile so fundraising is vital to our efforts. We have dedicated members and other volunteers that help offset costs through our adopt-a-trail program and summer work days.
What else do we do?
We help support the tourism economy of the region. Those cars, trucks and RVs rolling into town with bikes hanging off the back bring dollars to local businesses. The trails out our backdoor, they also make this region an attractive place to live. Bikers like to ride great trails, eat well, drink good beer, sleep, and do it all again the next day. We also host four big events including Ride the Keweenaw, Copper Harbor Ladies Weekend, Run the Keweenaw (in partnership with Keweenaw Ski Tigers), and Copper Harbor Trails Fest, not only as fundraisers for CHTC activities but to bring visitors to Copper Harbor and surrounding communities throughout the summer.
Trail counters in 2015 showed over 20,000 people passed by the main Copper Harbor trailhead between May and October!
What have we accomplished in our short existence?
Here’s a timeline of where we’ve been and where we are headed.
1994 First annual Fat Tire Festival on logging roads with 30 local participants
1999 Fat Tire Festival race course changed from 2-track and logging roads to primarily singletrack trails. Race changed from morning to an afternoon start and the finish line was moved from the Clark Mine to the Township Park to create more of a spectator scene.
2000 Post race cookout and live music incorporated into Fat Tire Festival
2000 Local volunteer efforts really started to dig in to build singletrack trails
2002 First national exposure for Copper Harbor trails in August issue of National Geographic Adventure magazine Mission Superior story.
2008 Copper Harbor Trails Trails Society Inc. aka Copper Harbor Trails Club (CHTC), a 501c3 non-profit organization was formed
2008 Started jackhammering into those huge rocks and hired trail building staff
2009 Copper Harbor trails earned its IMBA Epic Ride status
2009 Started first Donor Program
2009 Ocha Potter Terrain Park and 13k of cross country ski trails were built at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge with assistance of the CHTC
2010 CHTC joins International Mountain Bicycling Association’s (IMBA) Chapter Program
2010 First excavator purchased
2010 Invested $10,000 into an endowment through Keweenaw Community Foundation
2010 A 9-hole disc golf course was built by the CHTC at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
2010 Ocha Potter Terrain Park and cross country ski trails closed due to Keweenaw Mountain Lodge eliminating winter operations
2011 Copper Harbor Trails earned Bronze Level Ride Center status from IMBA
2012 The Flow Trail was recognized with an IMBA Flow Country Trail Award
2012 Copper Harbor Trails moved up to IMBA Silver Level Ride Center status
2012 Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival was renamed Bell’s Beer Copper Harbor Trails Festival
2012 TREK sponsored pro rider Andrew Shandro visited and was featured in Copper Harbor promotional video
2012 CHTC board with the support of IMBA hired Lori Hauswirth as its first Executive Director
2013 CHTC had 5 trail builders on staff building trails in Copper Harbor and working on a few projects farther south in the Keweenaw region
2013 CHTC was awarded a Bell Built Grant for construction of the expert downhill run, Overflow Trail
2013 Recieved funding assistance from USDA - Rural Development RBEG program for new excavator, tracked haulers, and jackhammer
2013 CHTC hosted its first Ladies Weekend with pro mountain bike coach Lindsey Voreis
2014 Recognized as a National Recreation Trail
2014 Eliminated trail building staff in favor of contracting with professional trail builder
2014 Approximately 2.5 miles were constructed for Phase I of the Keweenaw Point Trail. Financial support for project courtesy of the Steven C. Leuthold Family Foundation, Plum Creek Foundation, and Michigan DNR Partnership Grant.
2014 Hosted SingleSpeed USA
2015 Phase 1 of the Keweenaw Point Trail completed and opened.
2016 Phase 2 of the Keweenaw Point Trail construction began. Funding for 94 acres access protection project secured. Lower Garden Brook Trail reconstructed and new hiking-only trail built off of Brockway Mountain.
Glad you asked. There’s a lot of potential land and great terrain to work with in the Keweenaw Region. Some we have permanent access to, other land we either need to acquire or secure permissions for trail development. The CHTC is currently putting together a comprehensive plan that will show proposed trail routes, help identify key parcels of property, and funding needs. If you or someone you know would like to help support any of these projects, please contact us.
The short list of projects for 2017:
- Regular ongoing trail and boardwalk maintenance
- Keweenaw Point Trail Phase 2 completion
- Keweenaw Point Trail Phase 3 route approval and fundraising
The longer list of projects:
- Protection/acquisition of key properties currently crossed by existing trail system
- Keweenaw Point Trail Phase 3 Construction
- Keweenaw Ridge Trail Development (Brockway Mountain to Eagle Harbor to Eagle River)
- Acquisition of permanent access to land for intermediate trail development adjacent to Copper Harbor
- Development of trail connecting to Lac LaBelle