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UP DNR to groom only Blueberry

Sat, Dec  12, 2009 - By John Pepin, Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials said Thursday that a funding shortfall is expected to keep all but one state cross-country ski trail from being groomed this winter in the Upper Peninsula.

"Its a budget issue" said Debbie Begalle western U.P. district supervisor of the DNRs Fire Minerals and Forest Management division in Maquette. "Our recreation budget was cut again for 2010 our general fund revenue."

The Blueberry Ridge Ski Trail near Marquette and two other trails downstate are the only ones the DNR plans to groom this winter. Blueberry Ridge is groomed under a contract with the Noquemanon Trails Network.

Funding for ski trail grooming and trail maintenance equipment and other non-personnel costs at Blueberry Ridge are paid from a recreation improvement fund grant and pay pipe donations. Workers are paid from general fund money Begalle said.

At several other U.P. trails including the Canada Lakes Trail near Newberry Anderson Lake near Gwinn the Days River Trail from Gladstone to Rapid River and the Cedar River Trail near Stephenson the DNR plans only to plow parking lots.

The DNR is hoping to work with local groups to get those trails groomed this winter.

"Were exploring other options" Begalle said.

At Blueberry Ridge pay pipe donations amount to a few thousand dollars each winter. But at other ski trails donations are very limited. The state does not currently charge a user fee for cross-country ski trails.

With plenty of new snow and this years contract in place grooming at Blueberry Ridge began Thursday. After the trail was packed down it had about six inches of snow on it according to Bill Brondyke DNR Gwinn Unit manager.

"It will take a few days for it to be in shape for most skiers" Brondyke said. "But for now the die-hards are out there."

Snowmobile trail grooming had also reportedly begun in some areas. Trail grooming for snowmobiling is not affected by the budget funding shortfall as snowmobile trail grooming is funded through other sources including registration and permit fees and a portion of the states gasoline tax.