2008-10-23 / Front Page

Plan Would Make M-134 a Heritage Route

Regional Planning Commission Sees Economic Benefits
By Jonathan Eppley

The Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission is seeking to make M-134 a state heritage route. Designating the stretch of road along the Lake Huron shore between I-75 and DeTour Village would allow for special funding to maintain and update the road and its surrounding area.

Jeff Hagan, executive director for the commission, gave a presentation at the Clark Township board meeting Thursday, October 16, showcasing the benefits of the project. No board action was taken on the presentation.

Mr. Hagan is forming a committee

of interested people and agencies

along the proposed corridor to help set its boundaries and create a management plan.

"It's a grassroots effort, it's not a top-down approach. We rely on the stakeholders along the corridor," he said. Neighboring municipalities and nonprofit groups would have to band together and agree on a management plan to present to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) before the corridor can be designated as a heritage route. Mr. Hagan said the entire process takes about three years, and he has been working on the project for more than a year.

If the management plan is approved by MDOT, Mr. Hagan said there are opportunities available to receive funding for improvements and projects like scenic turnouts and rest areas.

Last year, the Federal Highway Administration allotted $40 million for scenic heritage routes, and only six grant applications from Michigan were submitted. Mr. Hagan said newer heritage routes have better chances of being awarded money because older routes are at a standstill.

"It's a huge untapped resource. But a lot of it is because a lot of these heritage route groups are at the same point. They've got the management plan done, but now what?" he said.

Other route committees rely on local governing bodies and nonprofits to apply for grants, he said, but many don't follow through. Any nonprofit or governing body along the corridor is able to apply for available grants.

Mr. Hagan said another benefit heritage routes in Michigan have is that the National Scenic Byways Program considers Michigan a leader in scenic routes because of its pristine landscape.

Along with access to more funding, other benefits of achieving heritage route designation include improved communication with the state highway department, a potential boost in tourism, and increased marketability for the area.

The regional planning commission is still gathering municipalities and nonprofit groups to join the committee to decide the exact path the heritage route will follow. Route designation can veer from M-134, but committee members won't want to go too far away from the main path, Mr. Hagan said.

"If [tourists] are on their way to Drummond Island, we don't want to send them up to Pickford, then end up in the Soo. Then they might never get to Drummond Island," he said. "The economic impact is going to be along the corridor and that's where we want" tourists.

Mr. Hagan anticipates the management plan will be in place about a year from now.

The M-134 heritage route would be the second of its kind in the eastern U.P. Twenty-seven miles of M- 123 in Chippewa and Luce counties was designated as a heritage route in 2007 because it runs through Tahquamenon Falls State Park and state forests.

The Heritage Route Program is in place to involve local residents in keeping highways unspoiled by showcasing those with outstanding natural beauty, history, and recreational appeal.

Autore vacates Sewer Advisory Board position

The township board plans to advertise to fill an open spot with the sewer advisory board. Cedarville resident and business owner Steve Autore left his position on the Clark Township Sewer Advisory Board in September, saying he is too busy to devote enough time to it.

"At this point, I'm just trying to keep my head above water on the boards I am on," he said.

Mr. Autore sits on the boards of Mackinac Straits Hospital, Les Cheneaux Historical Association, Les Cheneaux Community Foun- dation, Michigan Petroleum Association, and Clark Township's Recreation Committee.

Township approves bid for marina roof repair and use of excavator

The Clark Township board unanimously approved Cedarville-based Pollard Construction's bid to repair the roof at the Hessel Marina. Pollard's proposal is for $3,331, including $1,411 for materials and $1,920 for labor.

Pollard Construction also stated in the bid it would sand and paint the letters on the marina awning free of charge.

A second bid was entered, however, it was received after the proposal deadline. The board unanimously agreed not to acknowledge the second bid.

The township board also unanimously voted to seek a local excavating company to replace three corroded sewer shut-off valves. The excavation work is expected to be done for less than $1,000, so the board doesn't have to go through a formal bid process.

Supervisor Linda Hudson said she expects the three valves to be replaced for between $400 and $600.

Regarding the $1,000 low bid level set for the township to seek formal bids, Mrs. Hudson asked the board to inquire into what dollar amount other area municipalities set as their minimum bid level, to see how Clark Township compares. Setting the amount higher could help speed up small projects, she suggested.

"Really, $1,000, that's nothing anymore. It would take two months to do one small thing. What that amounts to is you just don't get to it, and we need to get to it," she said.

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