UP city hopes to build $3.7 million campground, a jumping off point to boost tourism

NEGAUNEE, MI – An Upper Peninsula town hopes to build a 71-site campground and trailhead for all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles if it wins a competitive federal grant of nearly $3.7 million, officials said.

Negaunee recently applied for the Competitive Outdoor Recreation Tourism Grant program, which targets economic recovery in the tourism, travel and outdoor recreation sectors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Negaunee will begin to mark a new and aggressive era of investment in public parks, Nate Heffron, City Manager, said in a press release. “Negaunee is located at the crossroads of all modes of leisure; from hiking to biking, snowmobiling and mountain biking.”

The campground is planned on 12.1 acres off County Road 480, while the trailhead would be nearby on 4.7 acres off Rail Street.

The location of the campground provides access to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and National Snowmobile Highway #8, making it “an ideal location to accommodate tourists for an array of trail uses”, Heffron said.

In addition, the 71 sites would include electrical and water hookups. Plans also call for the construction of a campground office, restrooms, showers and a sewer dump station.

Meanwhile, the trailhead’s proximity to downtown could help “make Negaunee the launching point for snowmobiles and ORVs in the western end of Marquette County,” Heffron said.

The trailhead would include primitive restrooms, a lighted parking lot that can accommodate at least 25 trucks and trailers, a picnic area, and protective areas for historical foundations and cultural sites.

The city is working on this project with the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority, which owns the two parcels of land. They recently signed a 99-year lease.

“We are happy to work with the city,” said Carol Fulsher, administrator of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. “We believe this will attract more users, provide amenities for existing users, and provide additional awareness of the trail system.”

A recent Lake Superior Community Partnership study estimates that 58.65 seasonal jobs could result from the project. At 100% capacity, the campground would generate $653,200 in gross sales per year; it is estimated to cost between $50,000 and $60,000 per year to operate.

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