Building bridges

L’ANSE – Most everyone has outdoor projects to keep summers busy, but Baraga County Trails in Motion volunteers are looking beyond their own backyards and taking on an entire trail system.

Saturday, 10 Trails in Motion volunteers built a pair of bridges during a work bee at the L’Anse Township Park Trails, a small but growing all-season, non-motorized trail system the group began from scratch four years ago. In the morning, the volunteers built a 12-foot bridge on Soup’s Loop, named for trails promoter Jim “Soup Bone” Johnson. In the afternoon, they completed an 8-foot bridge on Cathy’s Path.

Those two trails total about 1.5 miles, said group member Joe Bouchard. Trails in Motion is hoping to begin a third trail on the property, which he expects to be about a mile long, by this fall. The trails are kept packed by snowshoers in winter.

“We’re on 90 acres and just starting to tap it,” Bouchard said. “The big vision is to link this through Linden Creek to the L’Anse School Trail. Our white whale is a L’Anse to Baraga trail.”

Trails in Motion is not an official organization, Bouchard said, just a group of people who enjoy hiking and snowshoeing who want to improve things for the community.

“It’s almost like a bunch of kids that want to build a tree house, but don’t have a backyard,” he said.

Finances for the group’s work are held by the Baraga County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which was represented at the work bee by Executive Director Tracey Barrett, along with her daughter Darcey.

Barrett said the trails were not only a resource for locals, but also an attraction for tourists. That was a motivation for other volunteers as well, including Fran Whitman.

“We saw the businesses going to Houghton and Marquette,” Whitman said. “This helps our businesses … to capture the tourist dollars going by.”

Along with building the trails, Bouchard said, Trails in Motion hosts family events on the trails a few times each year, like the Snowshoeing with Sasquatch event last March, and the Haunted Hike scheduled for Oct. 23.

Millie Houtekier, one of Trails in Motion’s original members, said the community has begun to embrace the group’s effort. L’Anse Township cleared the parking lot at the trailhead just northeast of the main L’Anse Township Park entrance, and gave $2,000 to help purchase materials for this year’s work, she said. Whitman noted that the Plum Creek timber company also contributed lumber for the project.

Residents and visitors have also noticed the progress.

“We’ve seen growth in Trails in Motion and in the use of the trails,” Houtekier said. “We’re seeing more people in the parking lot, more traffic on the Facebook page.”

Some of that traffic is coming from out of town, too.

“We have a kiosk with a sign-in book, and we’re always happy when we see Florida or other states in there,” Bouchard said.

Marilyn Lloyd was a first-time volunteer who moved to the area just a year ago. She said the community has welcomed her and her husband with open arms, and that she was enjoying giving something back.

“I’ve hiked it many times and snowshoed it, so I felt I should be a part of making it better. And it’s fun,” she said.

Bouchard said Trails in Motion is always looking for volunteers and donors. To learn more, or to contact the group, look up Baraga County Trails in Motion on Facebook.