Western Upper Peninsula Trail Association – Gogebic County
In 2012, a new ORV organization called the Western Upper Peninsula Trail Association was formed in Gogebic County after community meetings were held and surveys reviewed. “A need for ORV advocacy and legal trails was evident by the information gathered,” said Kim Kolesar, association secretary. The group’s mission is “to develop and maintain safe and fun motorized trails in the western end of Gogebic County that will attract tourism to the area and give additional recreational opportunities to residents.” After the club was legally organized, members attended local government meetings to inform officials and the public of the group’s mission and goals. At this stage, the only funding sources were membership dues and fundraising efforts. “Our focus at this time was marketing our mission and scouting areas for trail development, Kolesar said. “Two club members became certified DNR youth ORV safety instructors. Annual spring and fall classes at Gogebic Community College are now held.” With minimal funding available, the club was unable to move in a forward direction needed to carry its mission to the next level. Fast forward to 2015, when a partnership formed with the DNR. The association received its first grant in 2016 and became the trail sponsor for 12 ORV trail miles from Wakefield Township to Marenisco. The club started to gain some momentum with this new partnership. “The positives included the validation of the club with DNR involvement. Our association gained more cooperation from government entities, more people and businesses became members, and attendance at club meetings increased,” Kolesar said. “The group’s mission was heading in the right direction.” Along with these positives changes came challenges and growing pains. “Additional work and commitment from volunteers was needed to keep up the momentum and oversee and complete projects in the required timeframe,” Kolesar said. “A variety of new tasks and skills were needed, such as grant writing, following bidding procedures, reports, reimbursements, signing, brushing, maintaining, trail easements, attending numerous meetings, etc. It was soon discovered to do all these tasks one should be a grant writer, accountant, lawyer, public speaker, organizer, community leader, laborer, politician and have knowledge in construction and engineering.” Kolesar said that list may seem long and overwhelming to the average person, but it’s essential for the DNR to make sure projects are followed to DNR standards and the funds are allocated correctly and legally. This all boils down to needing additional volunteers. “With the increased responsibilities and lack of volunteers, the DNR has stepped up and supported our association as much as they are able,” Kolesar said. “They too have a lot of their plates with numerous clubs and projects in Michigan.” Volunteers are needed to assist the association and the community with its mission to develop and maintain trails and make Gogebic County an ORV recreation destination. “The importance of ORV development in our area is huge,” Kolesar said. “ORV tourism brings in families who spend money on real estate, fuel, parts, machines, dining, lodging, etc.” The association’s immediate goal is to establish a legal ORV trail from the MichiganWisconsin border (Hurley, Wisconsin and Ironwood, Michigan) to the trail system in Marenisco that continues east. “Getting this specific ORV trail designated is huge. Our neighboring community — Iron County, Wisconsin — offers hundreds of miles of trails. They are the largest trail system in Wisconsin,” Kolesar said. “Two huge annual events are held in spring and fall. These motorized enthusiasts return to the area during other times of the year for ORV riding too. Gogebic County could be tapping into the established targeted audience along with the tourism dollars it brings into a community.” Current DNR projects include brushing a trail in the Wakefield area in preparation for new ORV/snowmobile trail development, seeking bids to install two box culverts and a bridge between Korpela Road and Sunday Lake Street in Wakefield, working on DEQ permits to replace two culverts near Marenisco, and beaver management. Past projects include signing and brushing from Korpela Road in Wakefield Township to Marenisco; the Michigan Department of Transportation right-of-way from Sampson Road to Korpela Road in Wakefield, and working on club-sponsored trails from Ironwood to Wakefield and in the Indianhead/Blackjack Ski Hill area. Long-term planning includes a scramble area with camping, wash stations, a trailhead and picnic area. The association continues to hold monthly ORV rides open to the public, partners with the Wakefield American Legion for an annual fall color ride for veterans, offers ORV youth safety classes, and scouts new areas where riding loops could be incorporated. The club would like to develop a junior ORV committee in the future. The intent is to attract and encourage area youth to assist with club activities, contribute to their community and carry on the association’s mission. “We are open to new ideas and encourage all to join in the effort to make Gogebic County a tourist destination for ORV riding,” Kolesar said.