By John Pepin, Journal Munising Bureau
SHINGLETON — The Alger County Road Commission expects to hear complaints Monday from Shingleton business owners who are angered over a temporary snowmobile trail detour set in place for this winter.
“We don’t need the trail to close. We don’t want the trail to close,” said Terry Bond, owner of M-28 Auto/Shingleton Towing and Service. “It will kill Shingleton.”
The Alger County Road Commission meeting is at 4 p.m. Monday at the agency’s offices, located along M-28, east of Munising.
Road commission officials support a detour for this winter that would bypass Trail No. 8 snowmobiles riding along a section of Alger County Highway 15 to reach a trail to the north.
Last winter, sleds damaged new pavement along the highway, especially at a county bridge, that the road agency cannot afford to repair or replace.
Road commission officials, working with the Munising Visitors Bureau and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, hope to only keep the detour in place for one winter.
Meanwhile, officials are working on obtaining approvals for a permanent route that would go to the northeast. That route involves building a long bridge over wetlands associated with Hickey Creek.
If possible, that route would be available next winter, but there are many hurdles left to jump before funding can be sought and construction could begin.
For now, the road commission believes the detour is a suitable solution.
“In addition to the safety aspect of separating snowmobile and vehicle traffic, we have prevented another winter of severe pavement damage caused by snowmobile studs during the winter of 2005-06,” said Robert Lindbeck, Alger County Road Commission engineer-manager.
But business owners in Shingleton, including those from the Woodlands Restaurant and Robinson Grocery, say a re-route of the trail away from Highway 15, even for one season, would cost them valuable winter snowmobile revenue.
“This is very, very important for us,” Bond said. “We look forward to this to help us through the slow times in late March and early April.”
Bond suggests the road commission leave a thicker layer of snow along the shoulder of Highway 15, in the half-mile section open to snowmobiles, to help prevent further damage to the pavement.
Lindbeck said the road shoulder is not being groomed as a trail.
Jeff Stampfly, unit manager for the DNR Shingleton Management Unit, said a map recently published in the Alger County area shows the old trail is still open.
Bob Stein, of the Munising Visitors Bureau, said officials worked hard to try to secure a permanent route before the winter arrived, but it was not possible, because permission from a landowner for easement was not granted.
Lindbeck said signing will direct riders to access Shingleton’s businesses, along the east side of M-94, for the detour period.
“During this winter, people will need to gas up and return to that location, before traveling north,” Lindbeck said. “The visitors bureau will be distributing handouts with maps, locating the detour, to all affected businesses.”
Stein said the trail detour will connect Highway 58 with M-94 , south of Shingleton.
“We will be working with the Bear Trap Restaurant on H-58 to use a previously ungroomed trail, then groom along the south side of County Road H-58 to a location near the Olson Road to access a trail connecting to the Miners Trail, ultimately leading to M-94,” Stein said.With the H-15 trail route closed, officials said the keys to making the detour work effectively will be adequate signing, community support and enforcement of riders staying on designated trails.
“The detoured trail location will actually make a better grooming situation than traveling up H-15 and across the county bridge,” said Stan Gerou, who has been grooming the state route for years.
Shingleton business owners are hoping to convince the road commission to leave the H-15 shoulder open this winter to sleds.
They approve of the new route proposed for the future.
Residents living along H-15 have long complained about snowmobilers riding up the highway at high rates of speed. Both the temporary trail detour and the new route proposed for construction would alleviate that problem.
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