New ORV trail coming to city

ESCANABA – The Department of Natural Resources will be leasing property in Escanaba for a recreational trail that will allow off-road vehicles to travel between Hermansville and Escanaba. The city took action on the route during council’s regular meeting Thursday.

Council unanimously approved an agreement for the DNR to lease land for a 3.8-mile ORV trail on the city’s west-side, running within the right-of-way of North 30th Street, Ski Hill Road, 19th Avenue North and 9th Avenue North.

All parties involved in the project, including ORV owners, have been working on the “Hermanada Trail” for years, explained City Manager Jim O’Toole, adding the portion of the route within Escanaba will be at no cost to the city.

In lieu of rent, the DNR will be responsible for all costs associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the route, O’Toole said. The project is a recommendation in the city’s five-year capital improvement plan, he said.

The establishment of the route, which leads to the fairgrounds area, is intended to promote local tourism and provide a corridor for ORV users, noted O’Toole.

The route designation will also allow the Delta County Sheriff Department to receive funding for law enforcement on the trail, he said.

Because there has not been a designated ORV trail in the city, the non-motorized ski trail area and landfill property have experienced unauthorized off-road traffic. Designation of an ORV route now provides ORV enthusiasts a place to ride and a trail where laws can be enforced, said O’Toole.

Steve Masters, director of the Bays de Noc Convention and Visitors Bureau, described the new ORV trail as a “win-win” for ORV riders as well as the local economy.

The trail connects to gas and lodging businesses and will serve as another tool for the area to attract tourists here, said Masters.

The route approved Wednesday is a portion of the Hermanada Trail that also connects into a larger state trail system. The route is a railroad grade acquired by the Michigan Department of Transportation and turned over to the DNR.

The agreement between the city and the DNR is for a 25-year period from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2038 and allows for an additional 25-year lease period.

In addition to ORVs, non-motorized use on the trail will include hikers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, joggers, and horse riders.

In other business, council went into executive session to consider the purchase of private residential property at 110 N. 3rd St. The real estate is going up for public auction on July 27. Council took no action on the agenda item.

The city’s master plan proposes the city should acquire the property, if its becomes available, to renovate it into a new chamber of commerce.