In less than two years, you may not recognize Au Train when you drive down M-28. A $246,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund will be paying for the "Au Train Township Heritage Trailhead Development Project."
The Au Train Township Board has given administrative responsibilities for the project to Kathy Reynolds, Executive Director of the Alger County Chamber of Commerce. She has plans to build several structures that will make the mouth of the Au Train river a bigger tourist hot spot, including a universal accessible canoe and kayak launch fishing pier.
"It's going to give everybody, no matter what your ability, to be able to utilize that river and to be able to enjoy it," said Reynolds.
The project also includes a railroad-style pavilion, restrooms, parking areas, picnic tables, and an interpretive center that will highlight some of the history of Au Train. Long ago, that exact spot with the flashing light at the corner of M-28 and Forest Lake Road was once a very busy location for trading and other businesses. Now, that is not the case.
Reynolds applied for the grant with the Au Train Township Board. All applications must be done through a local government. The Natural Resources Trust Fund Board has reviewed 102 proposals across the state. They recommended 76 to the legislature, 11 of which are in the U.P., including Au Train's. Now they wait on the legislature for final approval. Together they total $23.5 million in outdoor recreation improvements and acquisitions.
"These are things that can actually help support your economy. If you want to bring in tourism and have people spend time in your community...If you have an interpretive center, if you have a really nice playground, you're going to see people who are coming through and spending more time in your community," said Debbie Munson Badini, Deputy Public Information Officer for the DNR in Marquette.
"I think this will be great, not only for Au Train, but I think it's going to be a good thing also for the Munising area and the rest of Alger County," Reynolds said.
The township expects to break ground for the project sometime next spring. There is a two-year time limit to complete the project and use the grant money.
The DNR is holding three workshops in the U.P. in January on how to apply for grants like this one. Click here for more info from the DNR: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/2013_workshops_404121_7.pdf?updated=11262012