ALPENA - The Department of Natural Resources Natural Resources Trust Fund board approved Alpena's grant application for a trail head on the North Eastern State Trail.
The $350,000 project will build bathrooms, a pavilion, parking areas and bike racks, all near the North Eastern State Trail's southern terminus at Woodward Avenue, according to site development plans. Matching funds will be provided by several area organizations, including the city through in-kind donations and the Alpena County Youth and Recreation Fund. The $245,000 grant will be matched with $105,000 in local donations.
City Engineer Rich Sullenger said the trail head will provide a staging area for trail users year-round, as well as an entry point to the city's sights and amenities. The 71-mile, Alpena-to-Cheboygan trail has one such point of access at its midway point in Millersburg, but none for the trail's south end. While the city's grant request to build the trail head was rejected last year, Sullenger and others were confident this year would be different.
"We were pretty optimistic for funding this year through the Natural Resources Trust Fund," he said. "We resubmitted the modified application from last year, and the initial review the MDNR staff gave it was very positive."
Work on the trail head could begin in fall 2014, Sullenger said. Once completed, it will serve as a draw for the many different kinds of users the trail can accommodate. This includes snowmobilers, who will have a gravel parking lot to use in the winter, bikers, hikers and horseback riders.
The project is set to take part on county-owned land in Alpena Township, administered by the Alpena Soccer Association. They along with the Top of Michigan Trails Council, Northeast Michigan Youth Advisory Council, Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, Besser Foundation agreed to help fund the project.
The NRTF began as a way to use royalties from oil and natural gas leases on DNR lands to preserve natural resources, according to the DNR. Now at its statutory $500 million cap, these royalties go to a state park endowment fund while the NRTF board decides how to spend the fund's interest and investment income.
While the NRTF board recommended Alpena receive the grant, it still must be approved by the state legislature through an appropriations bill, DNR Grants Section Manager Steve DeBrabander said. The award is not official until the governor signs the bill. The board recommended 44 development and 32 acquisition grants, totaling more than $27.6 million.
Even still, some applications were turned down, DeBrabander said. These included one for South Shore Park improvements in Rogers City and another for universal access improvements in Montmoreny County's Briley Township.
"Just because it was not funded doesn't mean it wasn't a good project to fund," he said. "It might just be more applications than funding available."
Each grant application is scored based on a list of criteria, as the NRTF board typically gets more applications for funding than is available. The city got a boost when the board added a category for projects that connect to regional trails, DNR Grant Coordinator Christie Bayus said. She worked with the city this year and last, and said the city got the maximum points available in that category. Alpena also got some points as it's considered an urban area.
"Trails is a priority project for the board, and this is a much-needed trail head along a regional trail," she said.