Bridge closure causes economic concern before snowmobile season

Bridge closure causes economic concern before snowmobile season

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- An important bridge on the North Central State Trail is closed, and that's making some people nervous about how the local economy could be affected.

The trail is popular for snowmobiling in the winter and runs from Gaylord to Mackinaw City.

The city says that even having a long detour could make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars in its economy.

On a busy winter day, up 1,000 snowmobiles can cross the bridge that goes over the Little Black River.

In October, after having a contractor inspect it, the Department of Natural Resources decided that the bridge is a liability and that it needs to be closed completely.

“We’re still hoping that we would reduce the bridge to one lane and very slow speed," said Chuck Beckwith, president of the Cheboygan Trailblazers. "A snowmobile puts less pressure on the ground than a human does.”

The Cheboygan Trailblazers is a group that maintains the part of the trail in Cheboygan,

Unfortunately, the DNR says some important parts of the bridge are rotting and there won't be enough money to fix it before this year's winter season.

To keep the trial open, the DNR is proposing about a two mile detour, using some of Cheboygan's newly paved roads.

“Snowmobilers are going to have to ride on the blacktop," said Cheboygan City Manager Tom Eustice. "They’re certainly going to damage the blacktop. They don’t like riding on the blacktop, because it damages their tracks as well. So, it’s a big concern that if they know that there’s a detour to bypass this bridge, they’re not going to come through here.”

Tom Eustice and Chuck Beckwith say Cheboygan's economy depends on those snowmobiles passing through.

“It’s $125 a sled that normally people spend when they’re snowmobiling per day," Beckwith said.

“It’s going to hurt our economy significantly in the winter time," Eustice said. "We depend on the North Central Trail to boost our economy. All indications are it’s going to be a very good winter as far as snowfall and weather conditions, and we’re going to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The DNR says it understands that the bridge is important, and it will do its best to replace it next summer.

DNR officials say they will work with the City and the Trailblazers to come up with the best alternative.

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