COPPER HARBOR, MI – Although various funding mechanisms were discussed at a Tuesday night informational meeting about a proposed Keweenaw Landscape Park, it’s premature to be talking about local property tax increases, the ambitious plan’s organizers say.
In addition, hunters and fishermen will continue to be welcome on the property should a coalition of backers manage to move the plan forward, said Aaron Rogers, responding to blowback from an article Wednesday about the group’s proposal to enfold much of Keweenaw County into a public use park.
“Right now we’re just focused on introducing people to the concept and trying to get some momentum behind finding a way to acquire the property and preserve it for future generations,” Rogers said in an interview.
Rogers is the founder of Rock Solid Trail Contracting, and with partners bought 524 acres east of Copper Harbor that he has already begun building mountain bike trails on and plans to develop as a resort with cabins and campgrounds.
Property taxes are not being sought as a way to acquire up to 30,000 more acres of property envisioned for the Keweenaw Landscape Park, Rogers said on Thursday.
Covering most of Keweenaw County, the plan would knit together existing trails, public lands and conservancy areas with large new land acquisitions to create a massive public playground with infrastructure for mountain bikers, hikers, cross country skiers, ATV riders, snowmobilers, boaters, hunters and fishermen.
A coalition of interested parties brought the park proposal forward Tuesday night, which the Wednesday report failed to note. The group includes Rogers and his Rock Solid partners, Sam Raymond and the Keweenaw Adventure Company, the Copper Harbor Trails Club, Grant Township, Keweenaw County and the Keweenaw ATV Club, Rogers said.
For the Keweenaw Landscape Park plan to move forward, Rogers said the State of Michigan would need to be convinced to step in an either purchase or do a property swap with The Rohatyn Group (TRG), an asset management firm that currently owns much of the area in question. TRG has expressed an interest in selling up or swapping its property with other state lands.
The nation’s largest trailbuilding contractor, Rogers has plans to build 40 miles of new mountain biking trails east of Copper Harbor to add to the 35 miles of existing trails that have become vitally important to local businesses that rely on tourism.
But his planned East Bluff Bike Park extends beyond the boundaries of already acquired property into land currently owned by TRG.
“If land acquisition for all of it happened first, we’d welcome that,” he said. “But if it doesn’t, we’ll be forced to figure out a way to acquire some additional property.”
[Editor’s Note: Stay tuned, and feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org with thoughts about this or other articles from the Keweenaw Peninsula. A bit about my background: I am an award-winning journalist but am currently working mostly on non-controversial topics. I have a strong interest in food, travel and climate change. But I will try to keep an eye on the development of this park plan, as it rightly interests my new Copper Harbor neighbors. ]