Debris blocks some Michigan trails weeks after storm
Marquette — The snowstorm that swept across parts of the Midwest and dumped as much as 2 feet of snow in Michigan last month formed ideal conditions for skiing and snowmobile riding, but crews are still busy clearing fallen trees that are blocking trails.
Although many trails remain open, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources cautioned that some may be impassable and said riders must be extra alert for logs, rocks or stumps that could be obscured by the snow.
“The number of downed trees and limbs is astonishing,” said Rob Katona, central Upper Peninsula trails specialist with the state DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “We haven’t seen conditions like this in recent history.”
The storm packing heavy snow and high winds whipped through Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska before marching into the upper Midwest as Thanksgiving weekend got underway. It hit MIchigan, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, toppling trees and knocking out power.
In northern Michigan, the heavy snow weighed down young birches, oaks and other small trees, leaving them arched to the ground across trails, sometimes entirely buried under the snow,.
“Heavy, deep snows have created a good base for snowmobile riding but with that has come fallen and blown-down trees,” said Jerry Fitzgibbon, DNR acting district law supervisor for the eastern Upper Peninsula. “Trail crews have been working to clear the trails, but many trails remain cluttered and not passable.”
The DNR contracted snowmobile clubs to clear and groom the trails, Katona said. The clubs have had to rent bulldozers and excavators because some areas are especially challenging to clear, he said.
Marquette County and Blueberry Ridge Pathway have dealt with significant problems. At the pathway, workers used a piston bully, chainsaws and axes to move trees.
But even where trails are passable, riders must be cautious.
“Although a trail section may be cleared and open, riders should still expect to encounter numerous low-hanging tree branches, along with rough trail conditions and some water holes,” Katona said.
People are advised to refer to local snowmobile and ski club or tourism and recreation websites for the latest trail conditions.