34,000-acre public nature park proposal faces monumental challenges | News, Sports, Jobs

American Forest Real Estate Four blocks of forest land marketed as “Keweenaw Heartland” by American Forest Real Estate are part of a proposal to create the 32,600-acre Keweenaw Heartland Collaborative Park that would provide paid public use of land that would come temporarily under the ownership of the Nature Conservancy.

GRANT TOWNSHIP – Grant Township Supervisor Scott Wendt made a presentation to the Keweenaw County Board of Directors. evening on a proposal for what would be called the Keweenaw Heartlands Collaborative Park which would encompass more than 32,500 acres of forest land.

The park would be created from four large plots of land for sale by American Forest Management.

Heartlands Park, said Wendt, is a transformational approach to conservation, managed growth and the economy, combining outdoor recreation, resource protection, sustainable forestry and community partnerships in the regions, “Collaborative park setting forever.”

The mission is to use the park as a public park for the conservation and preservation of the Keweenaw’s unique historical and natural resources, Wendt said, for educational and interpretive purposes, and for public recreation purposes for present generations. and future.

The four parcels under consideration include more than 32,600 acres that are connected or adjacent to state, county and conservation lands, and would, when interconnected, form Michigan’s third largest public park.

In addition to the mixed boreal and deciduous forests, the park could contain approximately 3.5 miles of Lake Superior frontage, four pristine inland lakes, 11 miles of the Montreal River, the entire Little River / Betsy basin; two miles from Upson; two miles from Silver River, as well as two and a half miles from French Annie, and if counted correctly, Wendt said, there are over 20 miles of Type 1 creeks and trout streams.

The park would contain a frontage on Lake La Belle and Lake Medora. There are also two long-term, seven-mile ski resorts – essentially the entire US 41 covered route to Copper Harbor.

Much of the park, Wendt said, will incorporate a well-designed and diverse trail system, encompassing almost all types of trail users who currently use Keweenaw Point, as well as strategically located, developed and rustic campsites; picnic and day-use areas, as well as historical, aboriginal, mining and forestry interpretation areas. This, he added, will create a link between the natural environment, park amenities, local communities and park visitors.

At the end of the 16-minute presentation, County Commissioner Jim Vivian asked: “Where does the money come from?”

The park has two purposes, Wendt replied, of preserving and protecting the land at all costs, and the Nature Conservancy said there was a possibility that it would function as a temporary owner of a bridge, provided that the conservation has an exit. From this. How that will be accomplished, said Wendt, is key.

Conservation said collaborative government was part of their response, he continued.

“The first discussions with the Trust Fund are actually how this whole plan started”, said Wendt. “This vision is three months old.”

In a meeting with the trustees of the trust fund, Wendt said he was told that establishing parks in the Michigan wilderness was the raison d’être of the trust fund, and at this stage a significant percentage money should come from the trust fund. . Beyond that, he said, there are no answers yet.

County board chairman Don Piche said he believed part of the scale of the proposal needed to be put to a county-wide referendum vote, to which Wendt responded. that he agreed.

“It’s a transformational change” said Wendt, “How we believe Keweenaw County should protect and manage its resources. “

Vivian added that the proposal is a “Quite ambitious” project, and eclipses Fort Wilkins State Park and Isle Royale National Park combined.

A member of the public asked who was going to manage this park, which Wendt said would be a collaborative effort between the county and townships.

When Commissioner Del Rajala asked how much land would be removed from the county tax roll, Wendt said at this point he couldn’t provide an answer yet, but there are several sources of income that would help offset that. , which are camping, concessions, forest management and day visitors.

While there are still many important unanswered questions, Piche told Wendt that the first step in this proposal is to get permission from the residents of Keweenaw County.

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