IRON MOUNTAIN - Under sunny skies and remarkably warm weather Tuesday afternoon, the Lake Antoine Bike Path was officially opened during a ceremony near the east boat launch.
And as the ceremony was being held, three bicyclists were seen riding the trail making it evident that the long-awaited trail would see constant use.
Attending the ceremony were former and current staff from the Dickinson County Road Commission, an official from the Michigan Department of Transportation's Crystal Falls office, members of the Dickinson County Bike Path Committee, Bacco Construction Co., the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department and the Dickinson County Community Foundation.
The 2.3 mile bike/walking trail goes from the west Lake Antoine boat launch to the east boat landing to the Indiana Mine Road, said Jim Harris, superintendent of operations for the Dickinson County Road Commission.
"We hope in the future to continue the path on the Indiana Mine Road and connect to Fumee Lake," Harris said. "Signs will be put up soon on County Road 607 letting people know about bike trail."
"The trail here helps to address a huge safety issue," he said. "It gives the bicyclists and walkers a safe place to go away from the trucks and other traffic."
He added that the path includes six-foot paved shoulders with one foot aggregate shoulders. This newest design for the path essentially widened a portion of Lake Antoine Road and now Indiana Mine Road with paved shoulders.
"One of the surprises with the project was the section in front of the fence by the east board landing. We had to put in an embankment of 60-70 yards because the ground was too soft," Harris said.
He added that Bacco Construction Co. of Iron Mountain was contracted to do the paving on the bike path. The construction, including the sub work and aggregate paving, was completed by the road commission.
Dave Pajula, retired Road Commission engineer, recalled the process of getting the right-of-way issues completed only to find out that rules with the MDOT changed for bike paths.
He also noted that there were many trips to Lansing over the years.
"It is really satisfying to see this completed. And we can see that there has been a lot of use on it so far," Pajula said.
The concept of a bike path on Lake Antoine was initially proposed by the Northwoods Garden Club in 1991, but there wasn't any federal or state dollars to fund it.
Interest in a biking/walking path was renewed in 1993 as a result of a new federal highway bill that contained Transportation Enhancement Activity Project funding for bicycle paths.
In January 1993, the road commission asked city of Iron Mountain officials whether they wanted to participate in a joint application for these funds.
The city agreed to it in February 1993, followed by several meetings to develop a preliminary design concept. Public hearings were also held with letters of support received for the path from the public, businesses and other agencies.
The first application submitted that year for funding was not approved.
But the road commission did not give up and continued submitting new applications in 1994-1996 with little success.
Many calls, letters and meetings were attended by officials in Lansing with the MDOT and legislators to get the funds.
Unsuccessful applications were again made in 1997 and 1998, with the final approval for funding in 1999.
The original intent was to have a route around the entire lake. But MDOT officials indicated at that time that they wanted to see the north side project completed before committing funds for the south side.
Survey and design work started in 1999 and continued in 2000 with the project scheduled for construction in 2001.
But that was pushed back in March 2001, when MDOT reviewed the plans and made a site visit.
With the new rules in place, MDOT decided that the project had to be split into two.
About the same time, a right-of-way issue within the Iron Mountain city limits surfaced.
When it couldn't be resolved, the city of Iron Mountain looked at other construction alternatives including a new route for a portion of the project.
During this time, it was decided to change the project from a separate bike path to full width paving of shoulders due to the limited right-of-way.
Over the years, time extensions were provided by the state due to the many changes in the scope of the project.
Finally, changes in the route resulted in additional survey work and pushed the schedule back for completion in 2010.
After 20 years of discussions, planning, and the efforts of many people, the work came to a close Tuesday.
The Lake Antoine Bike Path is now officially open to area bicyclists and walkers.
The original goal for the path continues today - to provide a safe route for these outdoor enthusiasts.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.