By Caitlyn French | firstname.lastname@example.org
TAWAS CITY, MI - Nearly one mile of undeveloped Lake Huron coastline near Tawas City is slated to become home to a public park.
The nonprofit northern Michigan conservation group Huron Pines purchased the wooded, 145-acre parcel of property along U.S. 23 from the U.S. Gypsum Co. for $2.5 million in a project dubbed the “Lake Huron Coastal Preserve.”
The plan calls for Alabaster Township to assume ownership of the property in 2022 and turn it into a township park, with Huron Pines remaining in the picture to support the care and stewardship of the land.
“It’s an extremely rare event when a small community is presented with such a remarkable opportunity,” said Stephanie Wentworth, Alabaster Township supervisor.
The property is situated just south of Tawas City and includes nearly a mile of Lake Huron frontage. The purchased acreage is split between U.S. 23, with the lakefront parcel coming in at about 68 acres and the remaining land sitting across from U.S. 23.
The natural shoreline, mature hardwood forest and wetland ecosystem work together as a filter to help protect the water quality of Lake Huron and support diverse plant and wildlife species, according to Huron Pines.
“The vision right now is that the park would remain for relatively passive use, like hiking and walking trails; perhaps some access to Lake Huron. That’s not been well fleshed out yet. I think that’s something the township is interested in being able to offer,” said Heather Huffstutler, land protection director at Huron Pines.
USG is still mining in the area and has an active plant to the west and north of the property. Over the past 3-5 years, USG has been trying to shed unneeded properties in the area.
“As a large landowner in Iosco County, USG takes tremendous pride in its land management and stewardship efforts,” said USG Plant Manager Matt Craig. “We protect public access to parcels we don’t need for gypsum production, and whenever possible, we work with local government to release parcels we’re no longer using for the benefit of the community.”
The trailhead and parking area for the Alabaster Township Bike Path and Arboretum are located on the property’s south side and there is potential for future walking trails and public access to Lake Huron, said Huron Pines.
Alabaster Township will seek funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to purchase the property from Huron Pines. The fund uses royalties from oil and natural gas leases on public lands to support land protection and outdoor recreation efforts. Huron Pines plans to help Alabaster Township submit the grant proposal in April.
“If we want to ensure a future with healthy water, protected places and vibrant communities we need to work in collaboration with communities to build trust, identify shared goals and develop solutions that everyone can support and sustain,” said Huron Pines Executive Director Brad Jensen. “This opportunity, to protect precious shoreline in the heart of a residential and commercial area, is a way to engage the community and its visitors in conservation for decades to come.”
The next step in the funding process is the collection of public comments on the proposal for property acquisition, through an Alabaster Township Public Hearing set for 5 p.m. March 8 online.
In the meantime, Huron Pines is assessing the property so that it can be open for public use this spring. Public use outside of the bike trail will be restricted to foot traffic to ensure visitor safety and protect sensitive habitat, according to Huron Pines. The organization also plans to host a birding hike to experience the spring migration along Tawas Bay and introduce the public to the space.
“The connection from the bike trail is really important as well,” said Huffstutler.
The Lake Huron Coastal Preserve project is the newest environmental development and change happening at USG’s Iosco County location.
A large rock conveyor system that used to sit offshore in Lake Huron to load lake freighters was demolished in 2020. The structure was originally built in the 1920s to serve gypsum freighters and had sat dormant since 2000.
USG Corp. is a manufacturer of building supplies and solutions across North America, with 38 plants and several offices in the United States, according to its website.
The Alabaster quarry was one of the first locations that joined USG Corporation at its founding and is one of only three original locations that have operated continuously for the past century, according to USG.
MLive reporter Garret Ellison contributed to this report.
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NEW PIECE OF THE IOSCO EXPLORATION TRAIL AND IRON BELLE TRAIL CONSTRUCTED IN PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP’S LOON LAKE PARK
PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP - Just over a year after the first shovel of dirt was turned, a nearly mile-long portion of non-motorized trail that travels between Loon Lake and Mud Lake in Plainfield Township’s 121-acre Loon Lake Park is complete.
The trail, which connects to existing walking paths at the south end of the park and a trailhead to the north at Kokosing Road, is also part of the 38-mile-long Iosco Exploration Trail (IET) that connects Oscoda Charter Township, Au Sable Charter Township, and the city of Hale. It is also part of the more than 2,000-mile-long Iron Belle Trail that connects Belle Island in Detroit with the City of Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula.
Read more: https://www.spicergroup.com/news/loon-lake-path-enhancement-complete?fbclid=IwAR3pVcn2mZroF7kpBbmMCnLcVotq6oXmI2SG3CdaQZn668FAFP33dpPrS6c
I had a vision for a biking, hiking trail system that would loop through Iosco County and connect to the proposed bike path on the sunrise side of the Lake Huron shoreline. This would take riders through Tawas, up US-23, through AuSable and Oscoda, down the River Road National Scenic Byway, through the Huron National Forest, Plainfield Twp, and back into Tawas. I kept that idea to myself for a long time, not having the ability to do anything with it at the time. I love the outdoors, trails, snowmobiling, and this area. I’ve lived here all my life, my father lived here his whole life and my grandfather. My family just loves it here.
Through an opportunity to serve on the County Parks and Rec board while holding a County Commissioner seat, I advocated for a snowmobile trail system that could be regularly maintained and improved. Being seated as the Chairman of this board gave me the ability to do something different with all the trails in the county and enhance what we had. I knew then that I could bring my visions to life. I pitched one of the ideas, a bike loop, to a friend Nancy Huck. She encouraged me to get this going and together we created a board. We organized and approached the county for seed money. Plainfield Township in Iosco County agreed, then Oscoda and AuSable followed. Rob Eggers from the Spicer Group and I walked the area and laid out a route. We were passionate about the opportunity this trail system could bring. With the natural beauty, untapped resources, and local support we knew it could act to improve the economy. It would provide national forest access, highlight the River Road National Scenic Byway, bring people to see our fall colors, and drive family groups and visitors to our area. Nancy and I went to Lansing, MI, and met with Senator Jim Stamas and Peter Pettalia to lobby for support. That meeting turned my Iosco County loop into a portion of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail.
Having the Iosco Exploration Trail as part of the Iron Belle Trail is a great opportunity to showcase everything Northeast Michigan has to offer. People travel here from all around the US and outside the country to enjoy our overlooks. Family oriented Sports bring people to access our campgrounds, our communities, and our resources and they enjoy what our area has to offer. Having the Iosco Exploration Trail will supply a nice economic impact and we should take advantage of the natural resources we have here, like the Huron National Forest, which we’re blessed to have. Many people ask how they can access wonderful places like this one, sitting in our own backyard. It’s attractive to visitors and now they’ll have the access they desire. We're also lucky to have such great stewards of our resources, like Consumers Energy and the Forest Service, working with our community members and residents. They care deeply about this area.
If you look at established trails throughout the state and their positive impact statistics, along with their records of safety and low impact use to our resources, they’ve proven to be an asset to the communities who’ve developed them. The trails will lead to building development, a better local economy, and give our families and youth enrichment through outdoor experiences.
Iosco County Resident & Visionary
The Iosco Exploration Trail, Inc. is participating in #GivingTuesdayNEMI (Giving Tuesday Northeast Michigan) through our Community Foundation! This year, 60 nonprofits will be participating throughout the CFNEM nine-county service area. Twenty nine of those nonprofits are taking part in the campaign for the first time. Show your support for the Iosco Exploration Trail, Inc. and help us reach a wonderful goal of $5,000 for #GivingTuesday.
To participate in #GivingTuesdayNEMI go to www.cfnem.org/givingtuesday/ on November 27, between 12am and 11:59pm. By going to the Community Foundation website through the link provided above, you can locate the Iosco Exploration Trail by scrolling down the list, clicking on our organization, and following the prompts to gift the Iosco Exploration Trail for #GivingTuesday. It’s as simple as that! A one day only online event, #GivingTuesdayNEMI.
The Iosco Exploration Trail committee, and in collaboration with Cooper Standard of Oscoda, MI, will kick off the Iosco Exploration Trail (IET) groundbreaking ceremony on September 25, 2018, at 2pm EST, as part of the Iron Belle Trail initiative. The event will take place off Kokosing Road at Loon Lake Park in Hale, MI.
This much anticipated groundbreaking ceremony, in partnership with Cooper Standard, will include a unique experience for Cooper Standard Employees and Iosco Exploration Trail board members. Included in the ceremony will be a brief introduction about the Iosco Exploration Trail, as part of the Iron Belle Trail, by Chair and Plainfield Twp Supervisor, Fred Lewis. Employees from Cooper Standard will be working to pull brush and clear the first mile of this proposed trail. It is a volunteer commitment to provide a service and a thoughtful community partnership. The goal being to assist the IET and help to highlight the beauty in Iosco County by way of supporting the Iosco Exploration Trail non-profit in the groundbreaking endeavor.
The Iosco Exploration Trail (IET) nonprofit was created with the purpose of supporting the ongoing non-motorized trail maintenance, program development with the trail and throughout Iosco County, and more. As part of the Iron Belle Trail, the IET is a 34 mile stretch connecting Oscoda/AuSable to Hale, MI down the River Road National Scenic Byway.
In attendance will be representatives of the Iron Belle Trail committee, US Forest Service, Consumers Energy, Cooper Standard, DNR, members of the Iosco Exploration Trail Board, and is open to the community. Parking at Rollway Resort, attendees will be bussed from the resort to the site due to limited parking on site.
For information on this event or to donate to the Iosco Exploration Trail, please visit www.ioscoexplorationtrail.org or contact IET Secretary, Roberta Smith at email@example.com.
The IET has a website!! We are so excited to share the news and thrilled to be growing in such a great way! Visit us at ioscoexplorationtrail.org and click around to learn about what we are doing and why!
Foote Hydro tour August 11th was enjoyed by Ronda Garland and Roberta Smith of the Iosco Exploration Trail Committee. Great job Consumers Energy. Foote Hydro was immaculate, the workers were very knowledgeable, and we learned a lot about what it takes run the plant!
At the beautiful new AuSable Twp Hall, The Iosco Exploration Trail Board of Directors met May 17, 2018 to plan and move forward with IET business. Here they discussed the Plainfield Twp ground breaking projected to be late August or early September 2018, a gift basket raffle at the Huron Community Bank in Oscoda this week with proceeds going to the IET nonprofit, trail funding, the new Iosco Exploration Trail website set to launch Late May 2018, and more! This group of trail advocates, stakeholders, and citizens is working hard to see this trail dream come true!