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Call for action to groom Black Mountain trails

Wed, Feb  10, 2010 - By Denny Paul

Attached is a letter I sent to State reps and appropriate DNR representatives concerning Black Mountain and the ongoing battle to allow our group, the Thunder Bay Trail Association to groom. I have been trying to compromise with them and today I received correspondence describing they would groom if twice for $1,050. Below are the e-mails that have been written over the past few days.

Please everyone, contact your representative or or the DNR. The outcome of this will definitely set precedence and have implications for all state trails in the future.

Some contacts

2/3/2010

Dear Senator Allen, Rep Neumann, Rep Ellsenheimer, Dan Dunbas

On behalf of the Black Mountain Chapter of the Thunder Bay Trail Association I am requesting your help to convince the MDNR to allow grooming of the outside perimeter ski trail at Black Mountain Recreational Area (BMRA) in Cheboygan and Presque Isle County.

The TBTA is a 501c3 non profit group which grooms multiple trails between Alpena, Presque Isle and Cheboygan County.

The TBTA has been in partnership with the DNR over the last 4 years. The partnership enables volunteers to groom a small 7 mile long ski trail in the middle of a more extensive 30 mile trail. The MDNR has groomed the remaining , larger section of trail.

Funding cuts to the DNR have resulted in the DNR abandoning any grooming for the 2009-2010 winter. The DNR has continued to plow all four parking lots allowing access to the BMRA trails. Attempts at getting permission to groom the outside perimeter of the trails at the BMRA have been unsuccessful. The outside perimeter of this trail system is also the race course for the 7th annual Black Mountain Nordic Classic ski race which will be held on March 6th. The race has steadily grown and last year had over 100 participants from several states. We need these skiers and recreational skiers at our trail system and to help with the local economy. North Eastern Michigan is not blessed with the downhill skiing terrain as is North West Michigan. We need every tourism dollar we can get, especially in the winter months.

We realize that funds are tight everywhere these days, however. we are offering to groom the outside loop of this course entirely with our state of the art equipment and volunteer manpower with "0" cost to the state. We would also be willing to allow a state DNR employee to use our equipment and fuel at no charge . I have been in contact with Mark Mandenberg from the DNR and local DNR personnel . The only response we have received describes paying the dnr to groom which we cannot afford and are unwilling to do. We now have only one month of viable skiing left and one month to prepare the trail for the upcoming race. We cannot wait any longer.

I have email lists for over 100 race participants, a large number of TBTA members and for the Straits Striders ski group. I plan to use a mass e-mail campaign to create awareness of this situation if we cannot work this out.

Thanks

Denny Paull
231-597-9372

2/4/2010

Mr. Paull,

I've been in meetings all day and I wanted to get you the information to the questions we discussed earlier today. I did try to call your office at 5:30 p.m., but it was closed.

You have an event permit that allows you to groom the race portion of the Black Mt trail once as part of the ski event. I understand the concern of not being able to groom the race portion that is on the ungroomed portion of the trail. It would be difficult.

Our Department's offer to all organizations or groups that want us to groom the ski pathways is they come up with the funds and Department staff will groom. We need a commitment for multiple grooms for something on the order of once/week. However, in the case of your request the Department will groom this pathway only twice prior to your event.

The costs for our staff to groom per hour is $37.21. We would require a commitment of 2 grooms starting no sooner than next week. This is a large trail that requires 2 days to groom based on field staff estimates. We estimate 14 hours per groom. Marty's salary is $37.21 X 14 = 520.94. Cost of 2 grooms is $1,042.

I did find out that our staff can use the ski club's equipment that you offered for our use at no charge, in order to achieve the grooming quality you want for this trail. I want to let you know that we are also offering to use our own Tucker and drag for the grooming. Our own equipment and fuel costs would be covered by a grant we have available for cross country ski grooming.

After you have had a chance to review this information and come to a decision, I encourage you to contact Bill O'Neill, Lower Peninsula Field Coordinator, Forest Management Division at 989-732-3541 or ONEILLW@michigan.gov to work out the business arrangements for the donation and to schedule the field staff for the grooms.

If I can address any questions about what I've written here, please let me know. Thanks for your interest in cross country skiing at Black Mountain.

Thanks,
Jim

Jim Radabaugh, Section Manager
Recreation and Trails Section
Forest Management Division
Michigan Department of Natural Resources & Environment
PO Box 30452
Lansing MI 48909-7952
517-373-1276
radabaughj@michigan.gov

 2/4/2010

From: Senator Jason Allen
To: dpaull999@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 2:12 PM
Subject: Re: Re: Black Mountain

February 4, 2010

Dear Dennis:

Thank you for the update on your conversation with Jim Radabaugh from DNR. Please keep me posted on the follow up response to your request for additional information. Once I have that, I can proceed further. Talk to you soon, Jason Allen

Best Wishes,

Jason Allen
State Senator
37th District

2/4/2010

Hi Senator Allen,

There is no additional information coming from Jim Radebaugh at the DNR other than a price for the DNR to groom the outer section of trail. This is not our idea of a compromise. The budget woes of the DNR and state in general are not going to go away any time soon. This is a classic example of a private group that can do a job cheaper and better than the state but being prohibited . I am looking to you, Andy Neumann and Keven Ellsenheimer to help resolve this once and for all and soon. The winter is short and every day those trails remain ungroomed hurts our local economy and is detrimental to the cross country skiing community.

Denny

Friday 2/5/2010

I spoke with Jim Radabaugh from the DNR this morning and am awaiting him to phone back. Here are some points and my responses from the conversation.

  1. Jim advised that the dnr cannot afford to groom the trails at Black Mountain this year. I advised that we could groom with no cost to the tax payer.  
  2. Jim then advised that the dnr is not willing to "give up" trail systems formerly groomed by the dnr. I asked why then is the Vasa trail in Traverse City and Blueberry Ridge in Margquette under contracts with private groups to groom. (also they actually get paid by the dnr to groom) . He advised because these areas have a "history" with the state. I asked how can we develop a "history' If we are constantly told no. I said that I feel it has more to do with large populations and the squeeky wheel gets the grease syndrome but he disagreed. 
  3. I advised that Marty from the dnr staff could use our equipment and fuel to groom thus saving the dnr money. He said that the dnr has money for equipment and fuel from a yearly "grant" but lacks salary money. I replied that the "grant" is mearly an internal accounting maneuver and that the money all comes from the same proverbial pot which is tax dollars. He replied that dnr employees cannot use non dnr equipment and even if they did, the cost would still be the same. Since Marty is not layed off, I wonder what he is doing with his time which was formerly spent grooming. I also wonder why we would have to pay salery for him to groom when he is on staff salery already? does he get pain twice? I guess I am just to stubborn and thick to understand complicated issues like this. 
  4. Since I was getting nowhere, I asked Jim how much it would cost to pay Marty to groom the outside perimeter of Black Mountain (the race course). He is going to find this information and phone back. I just sent the dnr $250 for the race permit and $250 for the "security deposit". My gosh! 
  5. Jim finally gave the usual response that the major reason our group cannot groom is labor contract issues . I have been hearing that response for 5 years now. I suggest they confront this issue in their next labor contract. 
  6. I am beyond frustrated.

Denny