The USDA Forest Service, Hiawatha National Forest and Michigan Department of Natural Resources, with help from Michigan Department of Transportation, officially reopened the Coalwood Grade (Trail No. 8) Dec. 4 with the new Doty Bridge in place, according to a press release. The new 130-foot bridge over the North Branch of Stutts Creek replaces a temporary bridge in place since 2000 over a former railroad trestle. The new bridge updates a permanent trail connection for the communities of Munising and multiple rural towns, with Trail No. 8 a major east–west route across the Upper Peninsula. As the Coalwood Grade joins the Haywire Snowmobile Trail and other trails, it helps link hundreds of miles of designated trail systems enjoyed by snowmobilers, off-highway vehicle riders, hikers, bikers and more in Alger County. The grade and is known as a major destination point, experiencing up to 2,000 visitors on a typical winter weekend.
The completion of the bridge marks the largest project that the Hiawatha National Forest and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have worked on together.
“It is extremely satisfying to see the new Doty Bridge installed. It could not have been done without funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources,” said Greg Gardner, Hiawatha National Forest engineer. “They were champions for this project. I’m proud that the Forest Service was involved in such a rewarding effort, that will benefit so many users.”
Michigan Department of Natural Resources staffers started seeking funding in 2015 when Paul Gaberdiel, DNR eastern Upper Peninsula trails specialist, came on board. The $1 million in Recreation Trail Project funding required for the project was derived from federal gas-tax revenue. “The bridge serves as a major link for snowmobile and off-road vehicle trails between many communities, providing a huge economic impact. This trail and bridge not only benefit the area communities, but the trail users needing access to amenities; including food, gas, lodging and repair facilities,” Gaberdiel said.
The federal-state-private party collaboration made sense. “This project is a great example of how multiple agencies and private companies can collaborate successfully on a project. The focus was on public service and everyone involved came together for a common outcome. We are optimistic about the future of this interagency collaboration,” said Cid Morgan, Hiawatha Forest Supervisor.
The Snowmobile and ORV Association of Alger County (SORVA) maintains ORV Trail C and the Snowmobile Trail No. 8 year-round and during winter using two grooming machines on the trail 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The association fully supports the new bridge and we are thrilled its installed and ready for the 2020-2021 snow season,” according to Board President Keith Churill. Users can learn more about Alger SORVA and see trail reports online at: www.algersorva.com/. For information on the Hiawatha National Forest visit www.fs.usda.gov/hiawatha. Information on Michigan DNR is located at: www.michigan.gov/DNR. The trail accommodates snowmobile, OHV, hiking and biking multiple uses.
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This is the LS&I branch from Munising throu Little Lake to Gwinn. Opened in late 1897 and abandoned a hundred years later in 1979.