Access Protection Project
The initial scope
In 2016 Grant Township obtained a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) to purchase 94 acres of land at the heart of our trail system. The land included scenic, forested acreage containing three miles of existing non-motorized, human-powered singletrack trail that provides contiguous access to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Keweenaw Point DNR lands, Grant Township's Hunter's Point Park, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge property, Michigan Nature Association's James Dorion Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary, and Brockway Mountain Drive. Substantial match funds were raised by CHTC, its partners, and generous donors to save this key parcel and place it in the public trust. Total cost for the purchase was estimated around $333,000.
A Change of plans
With the money in hand and a sale imminent, the once-willing landowners backed away from the deal and requested several times above the appraised price for their property. Many attempts were made to renegotiate and bring the price down closer to something we could work with. Unfortunately, Grant Township was not able to come to an agreement that would work for all parties. Fearing our grant opportunity would be lost, Grant Township petitioned the MNRTF to allow us to go after an adjacent parcel that shared many of the attributes of the initial target. While the total mileage of trails being protected would be lower, this would protect nearly double the amount of land (164.5 acres vs. 94 acres) to allow for future trail expansion.
The original target parcel (north) is outlined above in dark red. The new target parcel (south) is outlined in purple.
The new target parcel contains the end of Dancing Bear and middle portion of Red Trail. It is owned by TRG, a hedgefund that is more than willing to sell land for a fair price. Once the MNRTF gave the thumbs-up to move forward with the alternate plan in late-2019, Grant Township set about completing all of our due dilligence for a second time. Two appraisals had to be undertaken to reach a price that reflected all of the properties attributes fairly. All the while, 2020's COVID delays slowed the project down significantly nearly every step of the way.
After many years of plodding forward, backwards, and forwards again, Grant Township was very nearly about to seal the deal once again. Unfortunately, in the spring of 2021 newly appointed Grant Township Supervisor Scott Wendt refused to sign the Purchase Agreement to acquire the property and the opportunity was lost. TRG soon after took the parcel off the market and bundled it with several thousand acres of adjacent land in a package too large for this grant. CHTC and its project partners are extremely disappointed at Scott Wendt's short-sighted move away from supporting outdoor recreation. We hope that Grant Township is able to find an alternative parcel that fulfills the goals of the project and shows that they are willing to protect public access to trails for the Copper Harbor community.
An Unexpected Setback
Despite being forced to pursue an alternate parcel for our grant purchase, the original landowner still generously allowed us to use the trails on their land. However, the landowner decided in the spring of 2021 to sell a portion of their land to another buyer. In doing so, our license agreement for use of their property ended. The new landowner is not trail-friendly and we were forced to reroute the end of Garden Brook and close Downtown. Several trails on the original landowner's property were then closed to mountain bikes, including Stairway to Heaven, Here We Go, Der We Went, and a small portion of Ma Maki. These trails are now hiking trails and will be managed with a much lighter touch in keeping with the landowner's wishes to be sensitive to the landscape.
We appreciate everyone who has supported the Copper Harbor Trails Club over the years with this project. We are as disappointed as anyone that the originally envisioned goals did not pan out despite our 6+ years of advocating and working on behalf of Grant Township to see the MNRTF grant through. We hope that someday they will be willing to work with us again on a deep level for the benefit of everyone in the community. Be sure to check our Trail Status page for any additional updates to this story.