By PATTY RAMUS
News Staff Writer
A proposed off-road vehicle trail in Alcona County awaiting federal approval now has funding for its implementation.
During the Jan. 7 board of commissioners meeting, Gary Somers, treasurer of the county parks and recreation commission, informed the board the commission has received approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on an $80,000 grant. The money is coming from funds generated by ORV registrations.
The grant would be used to pay for approximately 4.5 miles of new trail development and maintenance during 2009 and 2010. The proposed trail extends from Walker and Stout Roads west to the Alcona-Oscoda county line.
"The entire trail is snowmobile trail or we've detoured to go around sensitive areas, sensitive areas being a private piece of property or Horse Shoe Lake," Somers said. "The trail will pretty much be the 963 snowmobile trail from Barton City to Alcona Park and then from Alcona Park to the Oscoda County line which is the 96 trail off towards the Mio-McKinley area."
Somers said the trail has to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, before the grant could be used.
Sue Kocis, district ranger for the Huron Shores Ranger Station, said the Forest Service did an initial public scoping during the fall of 2008 where more than 400 comments were received in terms of the proposed trail. Some of the issues mentioned in the comments included the location of the trail head's parking lot, noise from ORVs and mixed traffic.
"Our recreation planner is going through the comments. Then we're revisiting the proposed action to see if we can address those concerns," she said. "I haven't made a decision yet because I'm waiting for us to address those concerns."
The usual method of addressing these types of concerns would be to look at different alternative routes for both the trail parking head and the trail lot. The office is short staffed so this is taking extra time, Kocis said.
If the proposal is approved, the public has 45 days from when the decision is signed to appeal it, but the Forest Service can implement action immediately. Kocis hopes to have a decision rendered by the summer, she said.
Somers said if the trail is approved, the parks and recreation commission would have an ORV division that would be responsible for the annual trail maintenance. Each year the commission would apply for funds from the DNR for maintenance and a new contract with the department would be signed.
Patty Ramus can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687.