OSCODA – The Iosco Exploration Trail (IET) committee met on Thursday, Oct. 15, to discuss updates to phases I, III and IV of the trail.
As previously reported, The IET is a section of the Iron Belle Trail (IBT) which, once complete, is expected to run from Belle Isle in Detroit to Iron River in the Upper Peninsula.
The October meeting began with an update on Phase III of the trail. As previously reported, Phase III is expected to include two extensions. Originally the trail was set to run from Oscoda High School to Old Orchard Park, but due to a variety of reasons, the IET committee and Oscoda Township (OT) opted to break the phase into two extensions.
The first of these will go from the Oscoda Area Schools (OAS) complex on River Road to Foote Village/Rea Road and through the Huron-Manistee National Forest. The estimated completion cost is $1,581,392, as previously reported.
Extension two would wrap up the phase from Foote Village to the entrance of Old Orchard Park (OOP), at an anticipated cost of $948,508 for a total price tag of $2,529,900. At the October meeting updates on Phase III of the trail were given by IET Chairman Fred Lewis and Rowe Professional Services Company Principal/Vice President Rick Freeman.
Freeman kicked off the October meeting by giving an update on everything that has been submitted for the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) Grant – including the status of all the trust fund grants applied for over the last several years, the alignment of the trail and property information including which properties the trail would cross over.
“We were able to get all of the additional information uploaded into the application to have it rescored,” said Freeman.
He said originally he was hoping to hear back this month, but said the Department of Natural Resources is a month behind as far as the schedule they put out at the end of the summer.
“Definitely by Thanksgiving we should hear what the final score was and should see that everything was successful,” said Freeman.
Additionally, he added that OT voted to accept the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant conditional commitment of $1,074,392 from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). She also said that an MDOT official said the committee will need to maintain and keep MDOT updated on how they progress on next Spring’s inspection and obligation for the trail.
As previously reported, the following is a summary of how the Phase III is expected to be funded.
• OT has applied for and received a fiscal year 2022 Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant conditional commitment of $1,074,392, for extension one of Phase III through the Iosco County Road Commission, which will be part of the matching funds.
• The township made a financial commitment of $100,000 in 2018, and an additional $100,000 in 2020, for a total of $200,000 in matching funds for the project.
• Iosco County has made a financial commitment of $50,000 for the project in matching funds.
• The IBT Challenge Grant has committed $110,000 in matching funds, while the IBT Foundation has committed $50,000.
• OT is requesting through an application that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant fund the project with $300,000.
As previously reported, if everything is funded and the trail is to conclude at OOP, final restoration of the construction is expected in June 2023, with the majority of the work taking place in the 2022 construction season.
“Everything is moving along fine. We’re still looking at, I know the DNR is looking at as far as additional applications, to possibly pick up more of the local share to get us all the way out to the campground entrance,” said Freeman.
He also mentioned U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Development Grant for $100,000, which was previously reported on. He said that ROWE is currently working on the application on behalf of the township.
“As far as helping out with the remaining $224,000 that we need to get out to the park entrance,” said Freeman.
Lewis inquired if multiple municipalities could apply for the grant in order to help out AuSable Township (AT) with funding for Phase IV.
“I would think so. I would open it to everybody. I mean it would make sense,” said Freeman. “I think some of these, how they work, they really don’t put it in to the writing, black and white, but sometimes when there is a joint and multi-jurisdictional project, those sometimes score better because its not just one that’s sitting out there in the middle of nowhere. It’s actually a continuation, so I would encourage it.”
Bearing that in mind, Lewis encouraged AT to apply for the grant in order to benefit both municipalities. According to Lewis, the application for the grant is due by Nov. 19, a week before Thanksgiving.
After conversations wrapped up about Phase III, Lewis handed the update off to AT Clerk Kelly Graham and AT Supervisor Kevin Beliveau to discuss Phase IV of the trail. Phase IV is expected to run to south of the AuSable Township Hall to the southern logical terminus previously reported on.
During the September meeting, Graham said that township staff was seeking a grant writer to assist in applying for TAP grants among others. At that time, members of the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments were not at work, but Graham said at the October meeting that they have returned to work and they will be getting starting on the grant writing process shortly.
Additionally, Lewis reminded committee members and others in attendance that Phase I is complete, as reported in last month’s update.
“Everything looks really good. The last update I have is that everything was pretty much finished. I took a drive over there the other day and drove the whole path and it looks very nice,” said Lewis.
The next step for Phase I is to hold a ribbon cutting or open ceremony. At the October meeting no dates were discussed, but the possibility of one taking place this year was discussed.
The next meeting is set to take place on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m. Location of the meeting is to be determined; however all meetings since April have been held on Zoom. For more information on the IET, visit https://www.ioscoexplorationtrail.org.