Soldiers of the 1432nd Engineer Company, Michigan Army National Guard, trained on local training areas near Iron River, doing machine grading and gravel surfacing to create a multi-use trail surface that will allow for drainage and provide an unobstructed surface for off-road vehicle travel and winter snowmobile trail grooming, June 12, 2015.
More than 11 miles of trail and a connector route were the focus of the units training for June through August 2015. Nearly 1,500 tons of gravel were used for the trail improvement and maintenance.
“Training on and improving local areas yields greater return on investment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steve Pietila, readiness non-commissioned officer for the unit. “The eyes of the community are on us. Positive impact in the community equals more support for the unit, as well as improved recruiting efforts.”
Training efforts close to home have other benefits as well.
“More time on the equipment leads to greater efficiency,” said company commander Capt. Jeremy Dailey. “Twelve hours of driving to Camp Grayling and back is 12 hours the Soldiers don’t get to train and improve their skills.”
According to Rob Katana, recreation specialist with the Parks and Recreation Division of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, opportunities like this localized training, when made available, work for the system and save the department money. This summer’s improvements will also help minimize or prevent further erosion. “The work is really appreciated,” said Katana. “All involved benefit in some way, from the Guard down to the users of the trail system.”
The trails were formerly abandoned rail roads acquired by the state of Michigan, or railways converted to a multipurpose ORV trail in the Rail to Trails program. The routes serve as state designated ORV routes and snowmobile trails. They have been heavily used by ORVs which has impacted portions of the routes. The improvements will provide a safer riding experience for the ORV users as well as many other users including hikers, mountain bikers, joggers, and snowmobilers.