Chocolay businesses to request snowmobile trail spur
By AARON PETERSON, Journal Staff Writer
December 16, 2003
MARQUETTE A group of Harvey business owners plan to request a spur to connect a new snowmobile trail with Chocolay Townships business district.
The announcement of plans for a spur was made Monday during a Chocolay Township board and township planning commission joint meeting to discuss a recent meeting between commission members and state regarding the trail issue.
Board Supervisor Greg Seppanen said the spur application is expected by the end of the week and will be made public at that time.
Theyre doing what the DNR should have, Seppanen said. Theyre trying to find an effective route for the spur and going through the planning commission so all residents know whats going on and have a voice.
The eight-mile section of Michigan Department of Natural Resources snowmobile trail the spur would connect to is only open this year because of a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling overturning a local courts injunction against it.
The township, on behalf of residents who live near the trail, has fought the trails creation on the former railroad grade. The township has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to consider its appeal of the ruling, but in the meantime is working with the DNR to keep problems to a minimum.
Planning Commission Chairman Bill Sanders said that application for the spur is a sensible option considering the reality of an enormous increase in snowmobile traffic on the designated trail and on township streets to and from the business area.
Snowmobiles can leave the designated trail and operate legally once they intersect with a county road, which the township streets are designated as, Sanders said. The spur is expected to be considered at a Jan. 12 planning commission meeting.
Seppanen said the commission and not the board will have the final say on the spur following review. When questioned by members of the audience at the meeting on who was requesting the spur, Seppanen declined to give specifics citing the lack of a formal application at this point.
During the public comment portion of the joint meeting, Dry Dock Tavern owner Stan Hubert presented the board with a donation of $2,000 for law enforcement on the trail. Hubert said he was presenting the funds on behalf of about six business owners.
We understand theres no funding and (township) money is tight, Hubert said. We want to see it patrolled.
Patrol of the roughly eight miles of abandoned railroad grade through a residential area of the township was central to discussion Monday, with funding being a key factor.
Planning commission members said that the DNR made it clear that the fund comprised of snowmobiler trail fees is unaffected by the state budget crunch and flush with funds that can be used for enforcement.
These funds currently depend on a local match from the township of 25 percent but is expected to be lowered to 15 percent shortly if not already, Seppanen said.
Sanders said this is an example of the DNR trying to work with local governments to ease the snowmobile issue.
To the DNRs credit, they are trying to get more money for enforcement, Sanders said.
Another recent DNR concession allows local police chiefs and part-time officers to qualify to use grant funds for trail patrol. Last week, the DNR changed a policy that would have tied the townships hands by preventing their funds from financing trail patrol by heads of police units, like Chocolays police chief who is also a patrol officer.
Citizens attending the meeting called for establishment of a 25 mph speed limit on the trail, strict enforcement by township and county law enforcement of snowmobile traffic infractions on township streets and consideration of establishing a curfew for snowmobile operation. The DNR is responsible for establishing speed limits on trails and continues to maintain no speed limits on state trails.
The local snowmobile group Hiawatha Trails, Inc., is responsible for signing and maintaining local trails on behalf of the DNR and has posted signs for a recommended speed limit of 25 mph along with a number of other restrictions, Hiawatha Trails member and Chocolay Township Trustee Don Britton said.