Listen to the interview with Keith Churill and Keith Lynch, Hiawathaland Trail Association
ESCANABA – A new trail organization has produced a digital map that suggests routes for ORV, snowmobile and other trails across the U.P. Right now, the Hiawathaland Trail Association is working with the U.S. Forest Service on access to the national forest.
“The whole idea is to get destination trails set up so you can go place to place instead of a lot of the short segments that they have right now that you can only access by trailering at the end of it and driving a half mile on a little road segment.,” said Keith Churill of Munising.
The group is comprised of the Trail Riders Enthusiast Alliance of Marquette County (TEAM), Schoolcraft County Motorized Trail Association and the Sportsmen’s Off Road Vehicle Associations in Alger and Delta Counties.
“A lot of us were working on common ideas and goals with the trail system and a lot of overlapping issues with grant funding. It seems a lot more efficient to pull everybody together and pool our resources,” Churill said.
Churill says they want to be able to travel through the Hiawatha National Forest on trails that connect to the rest of the Upper Peninsula. The association submitted a digital map with proposed routes and areas that they would like to access. It takes into consideration such things as wetlands that current snowmobile trails might go through and private land that is only accessible in winter.
Because there are limitations on existing trails that prevent use by off-road vehicles, the goal is to find routes on the Hiawatha National Forest that ORV riders can access.
“It’s a big buffer zone that stops you from being able to travel from the east side to the west side. Snowmobiles have the luxury of being able to do that. ORVs don’t,” said Keith Lynch of Escanaba.
New state legislation allows ORV vehicles to access the shoulders of state roads and bridges to connect shorter routes. That’s good news on the western end of the Hiawatha National Forest where routes were difficult to find that could cross the Whitefish River. The new legislation allows access from the community of Rapid River.
It also helps connect Wells State Park in Menominee County with the Forest Island Trail that brings riders in from Wisconsin. It provided access to a gas station and campground in Cedar River that riders need.
“What we are trying to do right now is find routes that get us to businesses, campgrounds, gas stations, restaurants, stuff like that,” said Lynch.
Eventually, the digital map could be used by Polaris’ RiderX app that the company provides free to ORV users to access trail systems throughout the country on mobile devices.
“Right now, what you see on the RiderX program is a lot of trails in northeast Wisconsin. When you get into Michigan is shows our Forest Island Trail, it will show the Felch Grade trail out of Escanaba and then it skips all the way across the Hiawatha. It just shows a big blank area. And then it shows the Two Hearted and Pine Ridge Trails north of Newberry,” Lynch said.
He hopes to be able to provide trail information once a system is set up that Polaris and other ORV users can use to access trails in the U.P.
For information on the Hiawathaland Trail Association, go to Facebook at www.facebook.com/hiawathalandtrailassociation.