KEWEENAW COUNTY – As part of the planning process for the proposed purchase of more than 32,000 acres in eastern Keweenaw County, John Molinaro, consultant for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan and the Department of Natural Resources, met with the Keweenaw ATV Club in April.
A meeting was held with representatives from each group — fishing, hunting, trapping, bicycles, ATVs and snowmobiles — to determine how the land will be managed after a change in ownership, according to the minutes of the April meeting of the club.
The minutes say people are worried about how different activities – like hunting and fishing – will be handled with the purchase.
In addition to the concerns of outdoor enthusiasts, there are many other considerations addressed by the 13-member planning committee, all local residents, including economic development.
At a town hall meeting in Calumet on Tuesday at which Molinaro was the keynote speaker, he said there were three existing businesses that have requested the ability to purchase plots of land related to what they are currently doing in the region.
One is Lonie Glieberman’s Mount Bohemia, who currently owns the land under her “base camp.” Mount Bohemia, he said, owns the shoreline it uses, as well as all the land along the way to Lake La Belle.
However, it does not own the land on the mountain where some of its ski runs are located.
“They praise it” says Molinaro. “They have 75 years left on their lease and their lease allows them to do anything on this land, for 75 years.”
They would like to own the property if they can acquire it, he said.
The second company is Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, owned by John Mueller. The land the lodge would like to acquire is to the east of the property owned by the lodge, which historically was built by the Works Progress Administration in the early 1930s. It included stables and other utilitarian structures.
“Part of this land would only be a buffer”, says Molinaro, “and they offered to buy some of it.”
The third company is Rock Solid, the company that built most of the mountain bike trails in the area. They expressed a desire to purchase the property on which some of his trails were built.
Helen Taylor, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, who was also present at the meeting, said that from a practical point of view, the companies that have expressed a desire to buy these lands are part of the ability of TNC and DNR to pay for the proposed land purchase, but it does not stop there.
While TNC and DNR are aware of community challenges, such as adequate parking, affordable housing, trail use and other aspects that meet tourism requirements, TNC hopes the whole process will help to shed light on what is happening.
“So it’s not limited to those three (companies) that John described,” she says. “Part of what we’re trying to figure out… how we would pay for it. We do a lot of fundraising, but it’s quite an expensive ticket.
Currently, she said, neither TNC nor the DNR have reached an agreement with the Rohatyn Group, which owns the forest land, but they hope to negotiate a price that all parties can agree on. There are two ongoing assessments, she said, which should be completed by the end of this month.
“And we’ll see if we can come to an agreement then,” she says.
But in trying to address the financial aspect of the purchase, she said, TNC had conversations with the state and other government entities, to find out what they would be willing to own or buy for the proposal to be financially successful.
Brad Carlson, supervisor of the Forest Resources Division for Unit No. 11 in Baraga, said that while there is still debate over MNR’s purchase of some 9,000 acres at Keweenaw Point, the DRF is interested in purchasing at least the eastern 4,000 acres as a first priority, while the second priority would be to acquire an additional 5,000 acres for the MNR Parks Division.
“But like I said,” said Carlson, “If we acquire the full 9,000 acres, we’re going to have meetings to see what’s best for each division,” adding that both plots would have a management plan.
Land has been a major concern for many people, both in Keweenaw County and beyond, ever since AMF Real Estate, representing TRG, announced the marketing of approximately 32,661 acres of property during the last week of June 2021.
Called the Heartland property, the acreage, as of June 28 last year, was listed in four separate packages:
• The Point, approximately 10,080 acres GIS – $12,090,000
• Harbor View, approximately 5,749 acres GIS – $6,908,000
• Keweenaw, Alpine approximately 9,769 acres GIS – $14,650,000
• Little Betsy Shoreline, approximately 7,063 acres GIS – $9,545,000