Closed Copper Harbor trails reopen after land acquisition

Photo: Ben Ciavola, courtesy CHTC

After controversial closures that closed some of Copper Harbor’s most beloved and advanced trails for the entire 2021 season, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge acquired the land on which most of the trails sit, allowing the Danimal and Flying Squirrel trails to reopen this summer. The Copper Harbor Trails Club (CHTC) is working under a license agreement with the Township of Grant and hopes to reopen Overflow. Unfortunately, the town center crossed private land and will remain off-limits to mountain bikers as per the owner’s decision.

After failed acquisition attempts with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources last year, John Mueller, owner of Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, is excited about what acquiring the land means.

“We’re showing an example of how it can be done,” Mueller said.

Acquisition attempts in later years were not completed due to confusion over what a 1946 deed restriction meant in terms of ownership and use of the land.

“The restriction in the 1946 act stated that the property had to be available to the general public or it would revert to the State of Michigan,” explains the KML in a blog post. “It was simply worded, without much explanation. So it caused concern to both the lodge and the county. There was case law that suggested the transaction could potentially trigger the restriction of the act and make ownership to the State of Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources revitalized talks with the KML in December 2021. Now, with trails and a conservation easement covering approximately 380 acres and the approximately 11 miles of trail sitting on the land, the KML is ready to rock and the acquisition was completed on March 23. Easements ensure that the land, trails and trail access will remain intact.

“It makes sense to understand that — to have the same line of sight as the Copper Harbor Trails Club,” Mueller said. “There is a lot of potential to improve things. It’s sad what happened last year in terms of people imagining everything else was going to close and it wasn’t. It just takes a little time to sort things out. »

As Danimal and Flying Squirrel reopen, they are still blanketed in snow and may not dry out until late spring or early summer. The CHTC hopes to be able to work under a license agreement with the Grant Township for Overflow.

“If we can put in place a strong licensing agreement that formalizes all of these maintenance requirements, that we keep these trails safe, we take on the burden of insurance and liability, and we will help protect the township by prosecution case. against them for any injuries on the trail. I think if we have one of these strong agreements in place, it would help alleviate a lot of their concerns,” said CHTC Executive Director Nathan Miller.

CHTC plans to renovate Flying Squirrel, as well as Overflow and the Daisy Dukes Trail, pending agreement with Grant Township.

Miller is excited about the easements and trail protection and hopes the CHTC can honor the agreement with the Township of Grant.

“With the trail easement in place, we will be able to keep these trails open as long as we follow the restrictions and guidelines in these easement documents,” Miller said. “And so it’s just going to be the same kind of thing that we’ve always done; keep those trails maintained, keep them safe, and keep them signed appropriately and we can keep them open forever, basically.

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