HUBBARD LAKE, MI – Imagine, if you will, your favorite place in the forest where you enjoy walking, mountain biking, hiking or even cross-country skiing in the winter. A place where no motorized vehicles are allowed to go. That one honest space in life that allows you to breathe.
Now imagine all of that gone because the Department of Natural Resources wants to cut over 450 acres of timber out of that area.
On this cold, chilly, 40 degree morning at 10am over 150 people showed up for an informational tour of the Chippewa Hills Pathway Trail System.
Each person wanted to get a first hand look at what the DNR is proposing in the way of forest management or treatment as they refer to it.
The Thunder Bay Trails Association and the Alpena Visitors and Convention Bureau invited the public to join them for the informational tour. Tour guides gave an informational session and walk-thru of the Pathway and shared data about the DNR’s proposed cutting plan and ramifications to the pathway.
For those who came out they were treated to fresh apples, donuts and apple cider.
Thunder Bay Trails Association President Randy Fairbanks was overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion by the turnout of so many people. Each person had their own reason or concern for wanting to learn more about the possibility of losing such a beautiful area that has taken hundreds of years to grow as it is now.
If the DNR is allowed to go through with the current plans, the Chippewa Hills Pathway Trail System would not ever look again like it currently does in this life time.
At the very beginning of the trail the red marks of spray paint are visible on either side of the trail head. Hundreds of trees are marked with the large red X’s of spray paint. Each one of those marks represents a tree that would be removed. The effects would be devastating.
The group is rightfully concerned that if the DNR follows through with the plan of deforestation at the Chippewa Hills Pathway, it would destroy the look and feel of the area for generations to come.
Fairbanks spoke to the group at hand and pointed out that the DNR, in many ways, is funded by timber cuts. Those timber cuts take place in northern Michigan because the timber is located more north of Standish and in the upper peninsula.
The southern part of the state has a different means of funding because the forests there are not as vast. He also did not want those assembled to base their thoughts and opinions on what he was saying. He encouraged each of them to come to their own conclusion of what the future may hold for the area if the DNR is not held accountable.
The DNR uses the money from the sale of that timber for wages, benefits and retirement costs for those employed with them. Fairbanks said they are not opposed to the timbering, but feels the cutting is being motivated by money and that the money made from timbering will not be placed back into either of the only two trail systems in the Alpena area.
Mary Beth Stutzman from the Alpena Visitors and Convention Bureau spoke of the economic impact that the deforestation plans would have on the area. Many do not realize the importance of the two trail systems that Alpena holds. The negative financial impact to the area would be incredible.
To get anywhere near the same type of trails that Norway Ridge and Chippewa Hills Pathway are, you would have to drive west towards Gaylord.
Representatives for the DNR based out of Gaylord state that clear cutting will only take place in a couple of small pockets along the Chippewa Hills Pathway Trail. That statement is not necessarily true.
One only needs to walk the Pathway and it becomes evident very quick that the public is not getting accurate information. Officials do not deny that the removal of the trees will definitely be noticeable.
The DNR has placed a hold on the proposed treatments or deforestation until they have a chance to meet with TBTA membership and other interested persons. DNR staff would like an opportunity to outline and explain current timber harvest plans, and to hear comments regarding these proposed treatments.
A meeting will be organized in the near future, and it will include staff from Forest Resources, Parks and Recreation, and Wildlife Divisions. Staff from the DNR will be available to answer questions and discuss options and future direction. Representative Peter Pettalia may also attend the meeting if it fits into his schedule.
The DNR is asking persons interested in meeting with the DNR to contact Mr. Cody Stevens, Unit Manager, Atlanta Management Unit, Forest Resources Division. Cody will ensure that you are contacted when a meeting date and time are determined. Please feel free to contact Cody at stevensc@Michigan.gov, or 989-785-4251, ext.5240.
Mary Beth Stutzman from the Alpena Visitors and Convention Bureau is encouraging anyone who wasn’t at today’s event to stop by her office (located in the Alpena Chamber of Commerce building on Chisholm St.) to fill out one of their comment sheets. She will be compiling comments from the community to turn into the DNR. Or they can email her at email@example.com
The community is greatly encouraged to take the steps to attend any meetings that are scheduled and also to make your concerns known about the current proposed DNR plans. Contact your state Representatives and let your voice be heard.