Crucial snowmobile stretch reopens after new agreement

What's happening: An important stretch of a snowmobile trail network in the western Upper Peninsula is back on the map after a new agreement between numerous private and public entities. The trail comes after the new private landowners of the former Indian Head and Blackjack ski areas withdrew permission for trail usage on their property in September.

Areas impacted by reroute: The closure eliminated trail access between Ironwood and Wakefield, rerouting snowmobilers into Wisconsin or all the way up to the Copper Country. The new trail will be more southern, going over some private property, but will also use old U.S. 2 and other municipally owned properties to connect the area. 

Other local snowmobile trail networks were actively preparing for different trends in trail usage due to the closure. While grooming groups in Northern Wisconsin and nearby areas were preparing for extra traffic due to rerouted snowmobilers, other groups in the central and eastern U.P. were preparing for increased traffic from snowmobilers avoiding the area entirely and going to other parts of the Upper Midwest.

What they're saying: “This is great news for snowmobiling and the communities that rely on its economic lifeblood in the western Upper Peninsula,” said Ron Yesney, U.P. trails coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division. “We will continue to work on establishing this route in concert with our numerous partners involved in this effort.”

How it happened: Key to finding the solution were private landowners Cory and Sandra Leuzzo, who granted permission for the trail to be rerouted over their property. Other entities that aided the DNR and Gogebic Range Trail Authority included the city of Wakefield, Bessemer Township and the Gogebic County Road Commission. The reroute took multiple weeks to complete. 

Local businesses benefitting: Small business owners and those in the tourism industry are thankful for the trail coming back to the western Upper Peninsula. Tourism originating from snowmobilers exceeds hunting, cross country skiing and ice climbing, according to a Michigan State University/Michigan DNR study, with roughly $239 million spent on snowmobiling-related expenses in the Upper Peninsula. The new trail will also provide stronger access to business districts in Wakefield and Bessemer Township.
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