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Plan Would Convert Stretch Of Trail Back To Rail

HUMBOLDT TWP. (WWJ/AP) - An effort to accommodate a mining company in Michigan's Upper Peninsula means a stretch of recreational trail likely will be converted back to a rail line.

The proposal to convert 1.9 miles of a 20-mile trail to rail is the first such reactivation of a rail line in Michigan, and one of about nine nationwide since the federal Rails to Trails law was signed in 1976, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press reported.

Lundin Mining of Toronto plans to use the rail line to transport nickel and copper from the Eagle Mine northwest of Marquette to a processing facility in Marquette County's Humboldt Township. The mill will employ about 250, offering an economic boost to the area.

"This is how it's supposed to work," said Joe Derocha, the supervisor in Humboldt Township. "If the industrial district ever returns, it should be given back."

The plan to convert the stretch of trail starting as soon as August still is awaiting final approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Ron Yesney, a recreation specialist for the DNR, said the biggest concern is "making sure there's an alternate trail."

Federal law allows former rail lines to be converted back to rail use, if needed.

Michigan has hundreds of miles of former rail lines that have been converted for recreational use, and more hiking and biking trails are planned. There hasn't been pushback from the community or rails-to-trails proponents to the Humboldt Township proposal.

"We are advocates of multi-modal transportation options and trains are part of that," said Eric Oberg of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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