Permanent Trails – Where are we now?

January 10, 2022

  • Longyear MOU Connector for Trail 14 between Marquette and Big Bay, north of the US 41 tunnel Agreement states the DNR understands Longyear is developing the land and the DNR will have trail connectivity through Longyear’s property. Longyear is planning on developing the area Unknown at this point exactly where trail will be, but in future we would purchase a permanent easement for the trail with the scope of the Trust Fund grant They have land in the Keweenaw and Gogebic; if we change the scope of the TF grant, we could use part of the grant to purchase additional easements if possible Initially this easement started as only to be for snowmobile access
    • Sought four year easements for snowmobiling only, but sellers weren’t interested are more amenable for year-round easements
    • Going forward funding needs to be equitable between the Snowmobile and ORV programs
    • The ORV program has a sunset in 2024 and the Association can look into the funding issues Would be good to have money legislatively set aside specifically for easement funding from the ORV program, similar to the permanent Snowmobile easement fund.
  • Lyme Acquisition Largest landowner in the UP with 609k acres Agreeable to long-term easements Currently working on 40 miles in Baraga and 60 miles Marquette County closing for 102 miles, largest linear corridor the DNR has worked on Funding from the permanent snowmobile fund, there is on small section that is ORV designated and will be funded 50% from an ORV grant On the NRC agenda this week and closing next week We are looking at about 60 more miles of easements for about $1m in the following counties: Alger, Dickinson, Iron, Luce, Menominee with the bulk at 23.5 miles, and Schoolcraft The SCTC approves moving forward with purchasing the easements from Lyme Moving forward, all title analysis, documents, and exhibits will be ready to close on an additional county this year with the current funding and concentrate the rest for next year, so we do not run out of funding for other projects Hancock project in Alger County Will close on the acquisition this winter, Steigerwaldt completed all the paperwork
  • Update on Spurr Township Logging Received a complaint that riders are unable to get past the logging, we moved the trail which goes across the access road Holli will be done by the end of the week New trail is built and make the connection on the east end, will be done this Friday
  • Update on Spurr Township Land Transfer Was purchased with a DNR grant with the idea of the SCTC removing the easement and selling the land; giving the funds back to the DNR. To get out from getting from paying any future taxes, transfer the property to the state, a letter from the SCTC gifting the land to the PRD Trails Section A correction deed will need to be in place before the DNR would be able to take the land gift. Jim Dickie updated the group that he has not yet heard from Mr. Tinti and will be following up with him. Tax reimbursement opportunity? Tally up the funds, will run is through Real Estate to see if there is a mechanism in place.
  • Question: SCTC to still sell the property to re-coup the back taxes?
    • How would this affect the back country riding opportunity we a seeking in this area
    • Suggested to first remove the cloud from the title, then SCTC to write the gift letter to move through the DNR approval process
  • Big Bay Update Joe Kram brought us more easement opportunities in the area Five to six landowners to connect into Big Bay from the earlier purchased easements Eliminates road crossings and will run along the county roads
  • Mohawk Update We will start on this project soon
  • Gaylord/Downstate Updates Snowmobile trail only Information and initial leg work completed by a local Fire Officer People are willing to sell West and southwest side of Gaylord from commercial properties Will have a safer crossing of I 75 Will need to have appraisals and a survey completed, a little more work and cost involved in this critical area in town Matt will discuss with Karl Davenport of an easement opportunity; a large holding in Jordan Valley, where the landowner passed away Great internal partnership and with the local club, this is how we have continued success with the leg work being completed and given to the DNR to pursue
  • Discussion
  • Keweenaw Land
    • Bought $5m of minerals in the White Pine area
    • With the sale of their surface land holdings, they may now become a minerals company
    • Wisconsin Central selling their corridor from White Pine down to the Wisconsin border
      • Not sure what this will mean – the new owner is Watco
    • There is talk that Keweenaw Land is going to start up two new mines and not utilizing the current mine
  • Wilderness Areas in the UP Any further information on the potential designation Better questions for the USFS, DNR is not involved in the process
  • Lake Linden Funding Recently, several people from the legislature visited the area and now the project will be funded Funding was taken out of the supplemental as other funding has been allocated Moving forward, 90% engineering meeting on January 27th Work to be bid out in spring Will be split into six segments for a total of $7m in work Could be open by next winter
  • Trail 15 The project near Baraga (Carp River Trestle) and the Sturgeon River Sloughs bridge should be completed by next year

November 1, 2021

  • Update on Spurr Township Purchased in 2015 and working on the deed discrepancy Logging on schedule for this week or next week Holli secured permits from the adjacent landowners to widen the access road to the parcel Verbal temporary permission from Anderson, waiting on written permission Two issues: permission to widen the easement for the logging road and to relinquish the snowmobile trail easement that was incorrectly recorded Yes, as the width of the road widening exceeds the easement. Evidently the landowner acknowledges we have an easement in place but the logging company is doing all of the conversations. Not necessary to get an easement as the SCTC has property rights to use the road – ingress/egress. Postscript:  The logging company got a temporary easement to use the road, which they shouldn’t have Widening might change the footprint and the rights might change. Suggest Don shares the permit agreements with SCTC and Mr. Tinti to review the permits from the Anderson’s as this could set a precedence for the property rights. Agreement/permit should be between the landowners and the SCTC and not between the logger and landowners.
  • Update on Lyme Acquisition In the last few years, Lyme has done a complete title analysis of their holdings We can use their list to see what easements we would like to purchase Ford River Road in southern Marquette County is not a county road, yet when the road continues into Menominee County it is a county road Working on closing in Marquette and Baraga Counties in the next few months Ensuring we are not purchasing easements that are on county roads or on areas that were gifted to the state Next step to further explore what we would like to purchase, high priority area is in the Munising area Matt will create a map that shows this acquisition and the other public holdings
  • Update on Longyear Acquisition In northern Marquette County we are seeking easements on 35 miles of trail Waiting to hear from Longyear Forestville area north of the tunnel to enter into an agreement as they are not interested in selling easements quite yet as they are seeking to develop the area Looking to close on Longyear quickly to protect the long-term future of the trail system Any map of areas in the UP that are threatened, yes, as we are going through the process with the logging companies.
  • Update on Hancock Acquisition – Miners River Matt working on the document to send to Hancock for review to buy a permanent easement When they agree, we have our title company ready to move on this project
  • Update on Mohawk Acquisition WUPPDR sent Matt information In process, working on which parcels we are interested in to get the title analysis completed Many landowners involved – state, private landowners, and TRG – private ownership in between the block of state land and TRG in the Keweenaw TRG more interested in selling their land rather than easements, we are making little progress with them
  • Update on Chatham to Little Lake Purchased pieces from Union Pacific Don and Rob Katona conducted a site visit and noted obstructions along the grade, mainly gates that need to be removed. Attorney General will create a letter on the newly acquired land purchases to explain to people that they do not own the property they think they own
  • Update on CSX Acquisition and capping Work is currently happening on this project The capping should be completed by the middle of next week The trail will be open as a local club trail, but will be going through the Trail Proposal process Cap price per foot or mile – will have to investigate as at is a multi-faceted project with the gravel, brushing, etc. Great partnership with the Manistee Sno-Birds
  • Update on the Fund Balance Protected funds – allows for things for development to acquire the easement $5.2m in the snow trail easement fund, as of October 1st fiscal year 2022 Includes money authorized to spend this year Planning to spend $1.6m on Lyme Accrues at a rate at about $500k per year in correlation between registrations and permit sales We ask for $700k to spend per year, can request for supplemental but typically ask for increased funding on In the next fiscal year, we are asking for an increase for $800k to spend $1.5m a year without asking for additional monies especially for projects that come up quickly offers more flexibility to purchase easements

 

September 9, 2021

  • Spurr Township Update    Logging started, good portion on the southeast near Moose Mountain Building the road RTP to re-route on the route, northeast side of Moose Mountain, and across state land Work near the bridge, mat the wet area and reset the bridge Craig Lake Road clean it up for the groomers, remove the boulders Potentially open the areas for ORVs with landowner permission and fund for improvements We’ll keep on top of the beaver issues Attorney still working on the easement After signing, promote the Moose Mountain area for back country riding, we have to tell our story also the re-route of Trail 8 onto SCTC ownership
  • Longyear Update Past conversations fell through on a trail north of Meijer to Big Bay across their property In discussions WUP and Marquette County regarding long-term easements Big picture in the Forestville area – looking to get a 30 mile easement under the US 41 tunnel to Big Bay, in addition approximately 50 miles from Lyme Big Bay to L’Anse Parcels in Gogebic new trail, seeking a permanent connection into Wakefield and another to bypass a road crossing Torreano sent Longyear information on 160 quarter quarters for easements we are interested in, about 30 miles of trail We need to make sure we are not paying for anything we legally can ride on, some are on county right of ways, the old railroad grade, etc. Any other areas suitable for future trail development?
    • Yes, across their ownership and other landowners, we need to enhance our trails before lands are sold.
    • South of the Yellow Dog Trail 14 and Trail 5 area could be another trail opportunity, discuss and develop a new club
  • Lyme Update If we have interest in new trail interests, we can identify them now as we are in discussions with Lyme 690k acres of land, securing 90 miles in Marquette and Baraga Counties A big holding in Menominee County as well Approximate cost to purchase the rights per mile $20k Working on the title research and waiting on next fiscal year budget, looking to close in November
  • Larson Update – Richard Krupp’s Recommendation Acquisition completed rights held by the State in perpetuity Advise Richard we closed on this, the club has been advised Thanks to Torreano and Olson for their work in getting this accomplished
  • Little Lake to Chatham Update Evaluated the grade created an analysis of what was owned by the state, the railroad, and private Contacted Union Pacific and bought what they still owned, important pieces of the grade we did not own, secured about 52 acres Most of the trail will be on the grade, except in Section 25
    • We will be off the trail due to landowner purchasing the grade from the railroad and have a strong claim for a prescriptive right
    • Also, two owners have a quit claim deed from the railroad
    • Look at purchasing other easements in this area Torreano, Katona, and Olson worked on this long process
  • Hancock Update Major property owner in the east UP Seeking permanent rights for the trail to Miners Castle, getting off the Alger County Road Commission road Conservation easement in 2008, allowed for the trail in existence, but no new trail development or construction in the riparian corridor West of the river and north of the creek is not encumbered by the conservation easement, there is 233 foot strip we will use and build a bridge across the wet area Some of the funding will be available in 22-23 for the construction of a 60 foot bridge Could we drop down and then get back on the road in the meantime?  Not really, there is a guardrail along the road. Could we use the temporary bridge from downstate and widen it? Look into that. The logging road will need some development, least amount of clearing possible Road commission and Hancock find the re-route acceptable, we are going to survey and do title analysis
  • Allegan County What would the trail be if we purchased from CSX north of Allegan to the Allegan State Game Area, about two miles Trail was put in across the State Game Area, move it out of the SGA and have it on the grade This acquisition might not be the best use of funds: CSX claims they do not own it, might not be correct, they still pay taxes on it The area is littered with trespasses and encroachments which would need to be rectified prior to purchase Significant infrastructure investment, including a bridge, if still under CSX ownership they require capping in their acquisition Wildlife Division does not support any new trail development in the area property might be limited in what can be done on the land due to funding, might need to have legislators push to have the trail developed The county roads in the area are plowed and much of the trail is on county roads in this area How do we utilize the program to target private lands to make the trail better, where can we get acquisitions in the area
  • Benzie SnowBirds CSX Update CSX transaction closed, August 19th Moving forward to fulfil requirement to cap, submitted a plan they agreed upon One foot cap of gravel probably 22a across the corridor from 10 to 14 feet, depending on the vegetation Work will be contracted out; we have quotes funded through rec improvement grants The time frame is tight, capping completed by the beginning of November Possibility of a year-round trail? County said no to ORVs. Roll this project and the Chatham Rail Trail into a Press Release to share our story and accomplishments with the SCTC
  • Bear Swamp Project Completed
  • Off Trail Riding Discussion If there is a private landowner, how is that insured through the program? On state land, Designate the area and if the adjacent sponsor wants to include the area, add it to the general liability coverage If a landowner wants to open their land to off trail riding, the local club will need to include them on their insurance – an agreement in place between the landowner and the club Would be complicated in some areas to open for snowmobiling and not allow ORVs Met recently to update the subcommittee Created a new sign to address of trail riding Educate the community, help with some of the private land issues, created a poster The group wants to focus on social media to educate the public also generalized maps Need additional support from upper management to move forward on an issue statement to bring to the chiefs meeting on what they would support Will schedule another meeting

June 30, 2021 ~

  • Lyme Acquisition Update:  In the past they were Plum Creek and Weyerhaeuser.  Worked with Lyme to acquire trail with MNRTF monies in Ontonagon closed in December 2020 with MNRTF. Next step to move forward on the rest of their ownership in Baraga and Marquette. – end up getting 40 x 40 basis 87 miles on about 400 parcels.  We are ironing out 4 -5 trail segments where there are some issues, close to finalizing data.
  • Direct Grants to SCTC:  If needed, we can obtain a direct grant from the permanent easement fund to the SCTC to seek acquisitions.
  • Grant Monies on a Project-by-Project Basis: We have $700K authorized to spend each year, we could grant SCTC from this monies, rather than using appropriated funds.  The appropriations element is not in this process, would not have to wait until the appropriation cycle to obtain the funding.  We did this process with the Spur Township property, granted monies to SCTC to purchase. Presumably, there is $5.3M in the fund $4.6M with the $700K – we should be spending the money every year and then we can ask for more.
  • SCTC Taxes on Their Properties:  SCTC pays for taxes on the parcels.  Mark suggested we use SCTC monies to hire someone to apply for exemption.  We could start with one property, and if successful move forward on all.
  • Spurr Township Update Logging and Re-route:  Don Britton entered into a logging contract and work will begin in July.  Breaking up the beaver dam this week to give us access and improve the road. We will be accessing the sale from Three Lakes. In the contract, they will provide a 16’ wide road through the parcel to the east line and on through the state parcel to the original trail. Rob Katona worked with the forester to get thorough access. Stumps will be kept short, cut as close to the ground as possible.
  • Susan Young Property, Ontonagon County: If the property was sold without an easement, a lot of trail would be lost.  They subdivided the parcel about 240 ac and were looking to close quickly. Our consultant came up with easement language and the landowner was paid for approximately 7,300 ft of snowmobile trail about $3.60 a foot for a year round easement. We could not use ORV funding.  Need to figure a way that the ORV program has money for easements.  It should be halved and if the ORV program decides to use this trail, they should reimburse the snowmobile program.  Need to have this on the ORVAW agenda item.  The ORV community to work on their permit allocation through either MISORVA or ORVAW. There was talk about ORVAW having monies going toward a permanent easement fund.  We are working through the process.
  • Longyear Easements: We have a $300K TF grant toward the snowmobile program, we were going to use the monies in Marquette County north of the tunnel to purchase an easement from Longyear. We had an agreement, but they wanted to sell the land; the DNR was not interested in acquiring the land at $7M.  Longyear has now agreed to sell easements on their property in Marquette County. Next step is to give them a spreadsheet with all their easements in the UP, how much we are willing to pay, and start from there.
  • TRG Land for Sale in Keweenaw, Easement Options: Used to be GMO and before it was Lake Superior Forest.  They own a lot of land in the Keweenaw and TRG is putting it up for sale 32,000 ac after timbering it off for $43M.  They are offering it in four pieces, which could be subdivided into 40 ac parcels for about $13,000/ac.  The snowmobile community has a lot of trail on that land and they want the DNR to purchase the property.  There wasn’t much interest in the DNR to purchase.Ron is in discussions with Eric Stier to purchase easements before they start selling.  With a proposal they might want to accept and cash in on the easement offer, over $1M for about 80 miles/32,000 ac.
  • Capping Lower Michigan Grade, CSX: The purchase moving forward, closing in August, timeline in place for all the pieces to fall into place.  Capping options to contract it out which is expensive, purchase materials and have department staff, working with Benzie-Manistee snowbirds to work together to purchase and install 11K yards of gravel.  Work to be completed within 90 days of closing.  Commence work as soon as feasible after closing to complete by the timeframe in the closing documents.  We are on the hook for $80K if we do not complete the capping.   CSX is requiring the DNR to cap it within 90 days.   This is a unique process.  The acquisition is pretty much in place, it is just purchasing the material and putting it into place.  Price per mile approximately $180 – 200K contracted with road gravel.  Least expensive $50K for pit run spread out by department staff.

 

November 2, 2020

  • Trail 15 north of Baraga Is still closed due to the bridge out near the Sturgeon Sloughs and several washouts from the flooding.  Engineering funded but not yet underway; plan is to bid out for construction next summer.
  • Trail 109 near Alston south of Twin Lakes One of the landowners pulled the plug on a portion of the trail.  This eliminates about 20 miles of trail between Alston and Twin Lakes.  Not enough time to create a re-route this year.  Unsure the reasoning behind the landowner decision.  Difficult because the DNR didn’t know about the issues.  During the pre-season meetings, it is asked if any clubs know of any problems to mitigate any possibilities of losing land control.
  • Keweenaw Land Association Acquisition Update  Started the process to ask Director for approval on the NRC December 10th meeting.  Easement documents to KLA.  Acquisition of 56 miles expected to be executed before the holidays.
  • Lyme Timber Acquisition Update Finalizing the acquisition using MNRTF dollars. Easement documents worked with the AG’s office and both parties have provided agreeable language.  Our Real Estate section is reviewing. Should be complete mid-December for the 13.5 miles in Ontonagon. Moving forward, working on the next counties about 150 miles throughout the UP, coming up with fair market value for the various parcels.
  • Question:  Are these types of easements removed from the tax rolls?   No, it just gives the DNR/Sponsors/public permission to use the easement in perpetuity, there is no change in taxation.
  • Longyear 2018 MNRTF to exchange the construction of a bridge in Marquette Township for a permanent easement, fell through.  Longyear wanted a class A road bridge, the MNRTF monies would only pay for a conventional bridge.  Longyear said no to an easement, they wanted us to purchase the land and the price was too steep.  Since then, Longyear is coming back and may be willing to work with us on selling rights through the area. Torreano discussed that we have had success with other entities, and it is working.
  • Spurr Township Update and Trail 8 SCTC and Patrick Olson have Sent Mr. Tinti information and has not responded. However, there is a signed a legal engagement letter with the Conservancy. The Trail 8 route this winter will be a mixture – it will follow Craig Lake Road to Nestoria to the Cozy Inn during early winter and then transition to the south part of the area later in winter when the trail can be froze in.  There are also several timber sales in the area that would open the access road further allowing access into the SCTC properties to offer an alternative to going through Moose Mountain. Would need permission from Lyme and other CFA land. After the area has been logged, future possible creation of a backcountry riding area, would plan for an activity area, identify boundaries, promote, and add basic signage,.  Would have timber sale specs to remove stumps at ground level.  This 200/ac area may help prevent backcountry riding trespass issues elsewhere.
  • Trail 13 Susan Young – Superior Snowmobile Club They wish to sell a multi-use easement and we are moving forward on the acquisition on 7k.  Funding?  Possibly ORV easement monies, Torreano will confirm. Corporate landowners on either end of this segment of this section. We try to get multi-use trail, for future benefit and purposes.  A lot of landowners won’t go for snowmobile only, they get more money for multi-use easements.

September 28, 2020 ~ 

  • Spurr Township Update Olson shared information with the Attorney in Houghton, have SCTC follow-up, look for an alternate attorney – Steve Tinti in Crystal Falls Working on a trail through the area due to the situation with the water
  • Keweenaw Land Update Funding and authority in FY2020, encumbered the $400k to spend in FY2021 We are finalizing the authority to spend on the acquisitions
  • Lyme Timber Update Soon to close on the Ontonagon, Lyme is finalizing the easement document.  Will be using TF monies for the acquisition We would like to purchase all the 150 miles in the future with the possibility of shifting several grants to acquire, will ease the burden from the snowmobile fund, approximately $550k
  • Susan Young Property Torreano provided the owners with information and the next steps for the acquisition on the 7,500 feet of property, at the time unwilling to make a commitment They want the snowmobile to remain however are uncertain about selling the rights
  • Property Transfer Update Process to permanently transfer SCTC ownership to the state trails program, send a letter to Yesney indicating exactly what properties will be transferred.  Will have Roger Strom from real estate on the next call
  • Next steps: Include Roger Storm and Rob Katona on next meeting Torreano discuss with Kennedy on grant issues, can SCTC obtain a grant, without a specific piece of property, to have $100 – $200k on hand to immediately purchase when the opportunity presents itself. How many years would the grant be written, and would it affect appropriations, what if the money is not spent would the grant expire, and the money go back into the program or grant is extended until spent? SCTC to phone and follow-up with Tinti. Olson sent information in an email to the group Roger Storm to update on the Kal Haven – South Haven connector

August 25, 2020 ~ 

  • Lyme – agree on a sale to purchase rights. We are working on refining an easement documentation.  Close to turning over to the AG for final review.  Moving forward county by county starting by next week.
  • KLA – still working on finalizing an option documentation to agree on a purchase, shifting though parcels and segments and should get something moving forward today. Title work on parcels we agree upon and then document preparation on about 70 parcels.
  • Susan Young – map and distances need to be followed up with Richard Cook to ensure boundaries are correct. If willing landowner, easy to address and move forward on two parcels for approximately 4,809 feet.  SCTC agrees to the purchase.
  • Union Pacific – secure what rights are still available on the abandoned railroad between Little Lake and Chatham. 1992 the DNR purchased portions and now we are securing gaps.  Title analysis was completed and reviewed by the AG on the 52 acres/$750k we would like to acquire and are moving forward with the purchase.  Next step to secure the rest of the pieces.
  • Discuss Spurr Twp deed correction Was forwarded to AG for review and the access easement was recorded incorrectly it excluded a key section number and was also worded incorrectly in which the landowner kept and did not convey the easement. It was suggested SCTC hire an attorney to share the deed, history, and discuss how to fix.  If hired, the attorney needs to be familiar with real estate law.  Rick authorized the hiring of an attorney.  Olson, Storm, Britton, and Yesney will meet to discuss.
  • Discussion transfer of land owned by SCTC to DNR TRAILS The merits would avoid taxation and put the name of the entity to take care of trail. Torreano will get details on the process on the current parcels to be transferred and figure out how to streamline the process in the future. Would wait until the Spurr Township deed is corrected. SCTC to provide a letter of intent to transfer property to the state. Easements cannot be transferred, would need to go to the grantor to retract and re-establish the easement to the DNR. If the SCTC dissolves, the language reverts the easements to the state.
  • SCTC application for grants Yes, it makes sense. Annual grant process starting in July.  Better to have specific parcels in mind rather than ask for a set amount to have on hand for acquisitions.  Pankner would have to apply for a snowmobile grant, as early as May. Would SCTC have direct access to the snowmobile grant fund without going through a grant cycle?  Not sure how a non-government entity would be able to access, most likely it would be through the grant.  Eligible through a grant, but not directly issue money to Yesney sending grant link to Pankner.
  • Update on Trail 8 Once the easement is taken care of, logging will start, which will pay for trail building.  This route avoids wet areas and the potential need for bridges.

July 8, 2020

  • Background Discussions were started in 2003 between MSA and legislators to set aside $9 from each  snowmobile registration for a permanent purchase funds. Since the STAC was abolished in 2009, how could the money be spent using policies and procedures?  Yesney became involved in 2014/15 and work with Bill Manson to find out who would work with the landowners, title work, and easement purchases. It was decided the best course would be to work with consultants as both the DNR and MSA did not have time nor dedicated employees to handle the scope of the projects.  Currently there are three consultants on board to help facilitate easements and land acquisitions for snowmobile trails. Whose name is on the easement since consultants have been on board, it is the State of Michigan.  Prior, SCTC.  SCTC came into play because they could move quicker on deals than the DNR. Does it have to be in the name of a grant sponsor?  If that were the case and the sponsor was no longer around, who would have ownership?  The best way possible to preserve the easements for current and future generations would be for the State of Michigan named as owner.
  • Baraga Three Lakes Issue No SCTC money was used, Jason wrote a grant to purchase the property, still using the registration monies.  However, the attorney messed up in filing the easement and listed the landowner as the easement holder, not SCTC or the DNR.  The DNR owns the property and the landowner holds the easement.  Manson fought with the attorney who said he was going to correct the filing but ended up not doing it.  Yes, this should have gone to the AG right away.  The DNR granted the money to SCTC, which is not a state agency and not our issue or AG.  The SCTC will need to rectify the situation.  The landowner will no allow SCTC or the DNR to use the easement, too bad if the deed was recorded incorrectly. If the DNR refunded 7+ years of taxes, would the SCTC be able to secure MNTF dollars to sell the property back to the DNR?  Under the statute, the DNR does not have the authority to extend the monies, only to a local unit of government, therefore we feel that is not right to do.  We cannot go around the by-laws and rules, nothing was done illegally, we went through the purchasing department.  For the permanent easement subaccount, the law states:  Expend or grant the monies gives the option to be eligible for grants, the bigger issue is who has the authority to spend, either the DNR, the grant sponsor, or an organization. Can the state purchase the easement/land?  DNR will not buy twice with public funds.  Speak with the MNTF coordinator.Can grant money from the permanent easement fund be used to buy the easement/land and write into the deed for the easement to revert to the state then SCTC transfer ownership to the state and get reimbursed though recreational monies from the MNTF?  Need to speak with the MNTF coordinator.
  • 4 versus 12 month Easements Depends on the landowner, most larger holdings want a 12 month easement due to the money and making their holdings cleaner.  If the appraisal price for a 4 month easement is not enough, then we would go a year-round easement matching snowmobile with ORV monies and MNTF monies.  We have not been always able to split the funding as ORV does not have a permanent purchase fund.  Snowmobile funds were used for KLA, Longyear and Weyerhaeuser used MNTF dollars.  Casperson helped with the Longyear purchase in northern Marquette, we had a grant but after the Director and others met with Longyear, Longyear ended up backing out.  We can see if we are able to use the monies on other projects, need to work with the MNTF coordinator. Can the SCTC get a grant from the DNR easement fund to take action and make a simple purchase, we try for a MNTF grant for the DNR to purchase the land from SCTC?  Would have to discuss with the MNTF coordinator.  If not, could we extract the permanent easement and sell the property?  If property sold, easement goes back to the DNR, who manages the land if things change?  Could it be written into the grant? What is the fee schedule?  DNR goes with the $1.80/linear foot for a 4 month easement, $3.60 for a year-round.  When is an appraisal needed?  On larger properties, when it would be more than $3.60/lf, also when we purchase the property and not only the easement.  Usually it is the landowner’s option which ever comes in higher.  The fee schedule is a fair price, but with some larger acquisitions, the $3.60 is higher than the price to purchase the entire property.
  • Upcoming projects KLA – we are focused on this now, SAW reviewed and approved everything.  KLA approved the appraisal.  With the pandemic, getting monies released is difficult, we have $6m in the account and this $900k project will be split between fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  There is enough in the account, but we can only spend what is appropriated in the line item budget.  We are buying up old railroad grades and connecting properties to secure the trail in the area. Lyme – was Weyerhaeuser, looking to purchase 12 miles though the western UP, also small landowner transactions.  Matt has a list, contact Matt to add any transactions around 10k. What can SCTC do to help?  No one is lobbying for appropriations, event though we have $6m in the account, there was only $280k available to spend.  To spend more, we need to get a supplemental, which drastically slows down the process.  Is it time to have a permanent trails committee under MTAC?  If the DNR and SCTC is operating independently, it is not good.  Paul, Jackie, or Ron Olson would be better to answer that question.  This would give greater credibility to the legislators as well.  Snowmobile is the only group with a permanent easement fund.  We are working with ORV to move toward starting a similar fund. 
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History Time Line on the Permanent Trail Funding

  • 2002– Large paper companies started selling off large tracts of nonproductive land. Snowmobile Trails were being rerouted off these lands to maintain continuity.
  • MSA brought in UP Clubs, Local Businesses, National Forest Service, & MI DNR and held meetings to develop a plan of action to keep our trails from moving or being closed
  • 2003-MSA lobbied the congress& the National Forest Service to add money to the Ottawa National Forest to purchase some of the property to avert closure. MSA also had meetings with the local townships and villages that usually oppose the forest purchases due to lost tax revenue. MSA was able to show an increase in revenue for the areas to keep the snowmobile intact.
  • 2003- MSA and the committee put a plan together to create the Snow Country Trails Conservancy (SCTC), its Mission Statement;

To promote and facilitate the expansion and improvement of existing State of Michigan Snowmobile trails with permanent snowmobile trail easements.  

To lend support to any and all non-profit snowmobile organizations within the State of Michigan when it is requested as long as it in the best interest, and as long  as this support does not violate any of the restrictions of the Articles of Incorporation or the Bylaws of the Association.  

To develop a common appreciation, understanding, and knowledge of snowmobiling activity in the State of Michigan 

To act as a resource and distribution point for information which furthers snowmobiling and trails, open to the public in general.  

To act as an agent for other nonprofit organizations to gain or acquire permanent easements or property for the use as snowmobile trails during the snowmobile season.

  • 2004- With SCTC in place the committee starts an inventory of the private land connectors in the upper and lower peninsulas.
  • 2005- The committee puts together a “Plan” on how the SCTC will solicit funds to purchase easement or properties. Approach land owners and how to make use of land companies to insure that the land owner feels protected. Set a width for the trail easement as well as standards to give the land owner when the easement is used, when the clubs may gain access, and sets an amount per rod to start the discussion. (A Rod 16 1/2 ft. long x 33ft wide. 320 Rods per mile.)
  • 2006-The committee realizes that no matter how many fundraisers that SCTC has it will not be enough to fund the purchases of any substantial amounts of easements or property. The “Plan” is revised to include a funding mechanism by which snowmobilers in MI will pay an additional amount to their registrations to create a “Permanent Trail Fund”.
  • 2007- January MSA works with our advocate and a few key legislators to introduce legislation to raise the MI Snowmobile Registration from $22 to $30 and create the “Permanent Snowmobile Trail Easement” account. The new DNR Director and staff lobby against the legislation because SCTC would hold the easements and the department does not like the language because they cannot use it!
  • 2008- December After a long and contentious fight through all the committee hearings the snowmobilers win and legislation is passed to create the “Permanent Snowmobile Trail Easement” account.
  • 2009/2010- Contained in the law was some language that a set of “Administrative Rules” be attached to the legislation. These rules are asset of guidelines for the Department of Natural Resources to follow to be able to spend the money collected. Archaic at best, so with the DNR administration against the legislation in the first place we had to resort to our plan and adapt what we want to see into the administrative rules. After about 18 months the rules were adopted the way we wanted and are part of the spending requirement of the plan.
  • 2011- New Governor, so new heads of DNR, DEQ, MDOT, etc., so we are now going from the departments of NO- to the departments of YES! All new directors and with them and all new philosophy about how to handle constituents! We are now Partners; it’s going to take a while to get all the puzzle pieces in place, permanent trails are on hold for a while.
  • 2012- We are told by our state trail coordinator that before any money can be paid out for permanent easement that an application is needed and that application has to be approved by the Attorney General’s office. As part of the new alignment of the divisions the whole Snowmobile Program is being moved from Forest Management Division (FMD) to Parks & Recreation Division both divisions are under the new DNR Director. We now have a new program manager to address us at the December Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW) and a major trail closure in the UP is about to happen. MSA steps in and using SCTC we reach an agreement with the out of state land owner to purchase 160 acres that contain our major East West corridor, trail 8. We hold his feet to the fire and he ok’s SCTC to purchase, our first using the fund.
  • 2013 The Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup gets some new leadership from the Parks & Recreation Division (PRD). We start over to educate department personal about the many facets of the snowmobile program.
  • 2014- Things are progressing with the whole program being in PRD, one of the items for the new snowmobile program manager is to find out about the Permanent Trail application being reviewed by the Atty General’s office. To our dismay, there is no review, nor is one required.
  • 2015- The state trails coordinator retires with no notice! When the closet door is opened all the BS and lies, to most all of the recreation groups come tumbling out to the dismay of all trail enthusiasts in MI. The new program manager vows in a SAW meeting to have a mechanism in place to spend the now 6 Year fund.
  • DNR Forgets that we are Partners-   DNR announces grant program to secure snowmobile trail easements –501(c)(3) organizations invited to apply by Nov. 15

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced a new grant program for 501(c)(3) organizations and local governments to purchase permanent easements for snowmobile trails. An easement is an authorization to use land for a specific activity, such as snowmobiling.

 

  • September 2015- DNR Program manager is true to his word, he gets the application and process in place so governments and nonprofits can apply.
  • October 2015- The SAW workgroup asked the DNR to put together a review committee and have a member of SAW on the committee.
  • December 2015- The SAW committee meets again and is informed that the department has received more requests for Permanent Trail funds than the money appropriated in this year’s budget. The SAW asks the DNR about the review committee, who is on it, and when do they plan on meeting? The SAW committee places Bill Manson as their representative to the Permanent Trails Review committee. The appropriation for FY 2016 is $140,000.
  • The Total fund balance as of October 1, 2015 is approximately $2.5 million dollars