Construction on next Iron Belle segment set for June
By RICHARD JENKINS
Bessemer – Users of the local segment of the popular Iron Belle Trail are going to be able to travel further east later this season as construction is expected to start next month on extending the trail to Ramsay.
“It’s taken over a decade worth of planning and work to get to this point, but we’re excited to be getting to build it this summer,” said Paul Anderson, a project manager with Coleman Engineering who is overseeing the project.
Anderson said construction is scheduled to start June 1 and run through mid-September, extending the current trail from the Moore Street trailhead in Bessemer to Ramsay in Bessemer Township. He said residents can expect the trail to look fairly similar to the segments that have already been built.
The route calls for the trail to continue on the old railroad grade from Moore Street to Steiger’s Home Center, according to Anderson, before leaving the grade and going through the woods on an old roadbed to Anvil Road. From Anvil Road, he said the trail will return to the rail grade before leaving it again to bypass the sewage lagoons. It will then meet up with the motorized trail for a couple hundred feet – Anderson said there will still be good separation between the motorized and non-motorized trails – before ending at Ramsay Road, across from the Keystone Bridge.
Once complete, the 3-mile segment will bring the total length of the trail between the Montreal River and Ramsay to 9.7 miles.
Anderson said engineering and construction for the segment is expected to cost $1,484,212. The cost will be split between a $299,900 Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant; the Michigan Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration will provide $745,327 through alternative transportation programs; $173,910 is coming from a DNR Iron Belle Trail grant; the Gogebic Range Health Foundation provided $200,000 and the Michigan Western Gateway Trail Authority is providing $65,075.
Anderson praised the health foundation for its contribution to the project.
“This project wouldn’t be happening without the health foundation providing that $200,000 for a local match,” Anderson said. “They deserve a lot of credit in this.”
Andrea Newby, with the Gogebic Range Health Foundation, said the project aligns with both the foundation’s mission and allows the community to maximize resources to extend a project that has already had a great impact on the region.
“Our mission is to advance community health strategies that change the health outcomes for the long term and research shows that communities that invest in walkable bikable areas have healthier people and thriving local economies. We also believe that one of our greatest opportunities is our ability to partner with state and local entities to leverage funds resulting in initiatives that have lasting impacts on health,” Newby said. “The Iron Belle Trail extension grant aligns with both our mission and our priority to leverage resources for programs or projects which promote health and health behaviors. The Iron Belle Trail is a unique asset to the Gogebic Range Community and we are proud to be part of the project.”
Bessemer Township Supervisor Jeff Randall said he’s looking forward to trail’s arrival in Ramsay.
“Our township board is very excited about the trail coming, we’re thrilled to see it happen,” Randall said. “Just like the first segments of the trail that are fun to ride, this one looks like it will be quite an enjoyable ride also. I know my family is excited for it coming here.”
He said the township has built a connection to the trail across the Keystone Bridge as part of the improvements made to Ramsay Park in recent years, and plans to use that connection to tie into the new Iron Belle segment.
Randall said other park renovations have included additional playground equipment, rebuilding the tennis and basketball courts, adding walking trails and additional lighting and additional parking.
Bessemer City Manager Charly Loper was equally excited about the trail’s extension.
“The city of Bessemer is thrilled to see the Iron Belle Trail continue to Ramsay,” Loper said. “The trail is a wonderful asset to our community that is used and loved by everyone in our community. The city is grateful for the community collaboration that has made this trail a reality.”
Construction isn’t expected to impact access to the current Bessemer trailhead or affect users of the current trail between Bessemer and Ironwood.
“(People) should still be able to park on the west side of Moore Street and use the trail to the west towards Ironwood,” Anderson said. “So everything should be untouched with the existing trail and we’ll be working on the east side of Moore Street and beyond.”
Anderson said it’s too early to talk about the timeline for construction beyond Ramsay, as work is still needed to determine the best route towards Wakefield
Ultimately, the trail will run from the Wisconsin border to Wakefield before continuing as the statewide Iron Belle that is designed to go between Ironwood and Belle Isle in Detroit.
Local trail advocates in Iron County are also working to build off the Iron Belle and expand the non-motorized trail system on their side of the Montreal River.