PHASE I

John Henry Excavating Contractor employees work to move fire hydrants along Mill Street that interfere with where phase I of the Iosco Exploration Trail path will reside on Friday, June 5. 

OSCODA – The Iosco Exploration Trail (IET) Committee met virtually on Thursday, June 4, after not meeting since February due to restrictions posed by COVID-19.

The IET is a section of the Iron Belle Trail which is expected to run from Belle Isle in Detroit up to Iron River in the Upper Peninsula. At the June meeting, members of the committee gathered on Zoom to hear updates about three different phases of the trail. 

IET Chairman Fred Lewis kicked off the June meeting by giving an update on Phase III explaining to committee members that he’s been emailing back and forth with Oscoda Township. Township officials notified Lewis that they would be bringing their phase III application back to the board with changes on Monday, June 8. 

As previously reported, at the February IET meeting, discussions about shortening phase III of the trail which was originally planned to run from Oscoda Area Schools (OAS) out to Old Orchard Park ensued. After discussions with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Oscoda Township Supervisor Aaron Weed and the IET committee, a decision was made to shorten the trail to 3.3 miles and have it run from Richardson Elementary School to Rea Road. 

A main reason the decision to shorten the trail was decided had to do with securing Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding by increasing the project amount and increasing the matching percentage to make Oscoda more competitive. According to township officials, MDOT contacted township staff and said they were willing to reduce the match percentage to 29 percent instead of 32 if the township agreed to run the path as it was originally planned. 

“That increase of the total budget which is going to increase the amount of match required, by the same token it gets more done for more grant money rather than having to have all that match money,” said Lewis at the Thursday meeting. 

With this in mind, township officials presented the board with Resolution 2020-12 which temporarily commits the township to an increase of $227,000 to their already $200,000 commitment of matching funds to fund the original path. The resolution also states, “the township intends to apply for a TAP grant for $1,796,229 through the Iosco County Road Commission, which will be part of the matching funds.”

If we don’t get the grant, we don’t spend the money,” said Weed.

Additionally, the resolution requests through the application to have the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application fund the project with $300,000 as previously requested in the aforementioned article. A motion to approve the resolution received a unanimous 7-0 vote.

Further, the selection committee which decides whether or not the trail will be approved at its original length or the 3.3 mile path. At press time, the selection committee was to meet Monday and make a decision. Further information about the decision made can be found in a future edition of this publication. 

An update on phase IV of the trail which runs south of the AuSable Township Hall was briefly given as well. As previously reported in the March update on the trail, township officials secured a logical southern terminus. A logical southern terminus as defined by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is rational end points for a transportation improvement and rational end points for a review of the environmental impacts. The FHA explains further that a project can not be created as a segment because this could create issues in the future. 

For this reason, township officials secured the terminus. 

“It’s a vacant lot. Three of them together and its a really nice location. High and dry. It will be perfect,” said Graham. Now we just have to start committing to MDOT cause now we’ve fulfilled our requirement there, so we should be able to start asking for funding,” said Graham. 

The next step according to Lewis and Graham is to submit an application for TAP grant funding. Lewis said he believed the deadline for TAP grants is Mid-June. 

“I don’t think we’re in any great big rush right now. I think if we can get it done by the end of the year would be nice.” said Graham. 

Finally, a small update on phase I was given. At the last IET meeting in February, committee members said that nothing was being done due to being in the season of winter. Since the start of June, John Henry Excavating Contractor has been working along Mill Street relocating fire hydrants that reside where the future path will go. 

Additional updates of the path can be found in this publication in the future. The next IET meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 16, at 2 p.m. Whether the meeting will be held digitally or in person is still to be determined. For more information on the IET visit https://www.ioscoexplorationtrail.org.