Keweenaw Bay Indian Community embraces path to connect UP villages

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Preliminary plan announced during Michigan Trails Week

LANSING, Mich. – Connecting a nearly 12-mile stretch of land that runs beside the southern rim of the Keweenaw Bay holds unprecedented promise for two Upper Peninsula communities viewing the creation of the new path as a major boost to the region’s economic development and quality of life.

Findings from “Feasibility Study of Keweenaw Bay Non-Motorized Pathway Linking Zeba and Sand Point,” commissioned by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), will be presented 10 a.m. Wednesday, September 30 in the Chippewa Room, KBIC Ojibwa Casino, 16449 Michigan Avenue, Baraga.

Funded by a $160,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the plan features a range of options to build a walk-and-bike path across marshlands, shoreline, sidewalks and bridges connecting the tribal reservation L’Anse and Baraga, located across the bay from each other near the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula.

“This project unites our communities by promoting health, physical and spiritual well-being for local residents and visitors,” said KBIC President, Warren C. Swartz, Jr. “We are excited about the symbolism and possibilities in uniting local residents in support of this project which links the communities and offers an inspiring path for visitors to explore the geography, history and culture of our area.”

Addressing issues to foster a sustainable tribal economies for the state’s 12 federally recognized Indian tribes is the focus of the MEDC’s tribal business development strategy, which began in 2010. The strategy aims to build tribal-based businesses beyond gaming activities. In addition to the support for the feasibility study, MEDC has provided funding for a solar-system installation in the Keweenaw Bay Indian community.

“We deeply value our partnership with KBIC and the 11 other Native American tribes in the state,” said Steve Arwood, President/CEO of MEDC. “This feasibility study is a catalyst for economic development and presents a compelling plan to attract additional public funds. This pathway has the potential to positively transform one of the state’s most spectacular geographical and culturally significant locations.”

The announcement of the preliminary findings prepared by U.P. Engineers & Architects of Houghton comes during Michigan Trails Week, Sept. 19-26, which features commemorative events throughout the state to elevate public awareness of Michigan’s extensive network of trails for walkers, bicyclists, snowmobilers and conservationists.

“The collaboration among local individuals, community groups and governments is a powerful force in creating positive change in the Keweenaw Bay Indian community, and giving us the credibility to draw more support,” said Swartz, who noted the feasibility study is an essential first step in attracting additional funding for the construction and maintenance of the trail estimated to cost $8.5 million to $12 million.

Sources of additional funding could come from Indian Health Services and a range of federal, county, state agencies, including Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund.

The creation of the non-motorized pathway will attract tourists, campers and naturalists, and boost the local economy.

“Promoting tourism and vacation activities will attract families and individuals who stay at campgrounds, hotels and motels and enjoy the outdoor activities and recreation provided in the area,” said Swartz.

MEDC’s tribal business strategy supports tribal initiatives with grants to support machinery/equipment purchases, workforce training, property/infrastructure redevelopment along with technical assistance and feasibility studies.

MEDC’s relationships with Native American tribes include Bay Mills Chippewa Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Hannahville Potawatomi Indian Community, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

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