The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is an outdoor destination for many adventurous tourists. The multitude of trails provides endless snowmobiling, skiing, mountain biking and hiking opportunities bringing a much-needed boost to the local economy. Some say, without those tourism dollars, many of the smaller towns in the UP would fail to exist.
Flash Flooding in June and July of 2018 left these trails in a complete state of disaster, with an estimated 21 million dollars in damage. Several of the trails have been shut down resulting in a huge economic blow to the area for the many businesses that rely upon tourism dollars especially in the winter months.
Matt Virtanen, a Snowmobiler from Oshkosh Wisconson enjoys riding the UP, and after hearing of the devastating loss knew he had to try to make a difference. “It is horrible. Bridges were washed out and massive sinkholes 30 to 40 feet deep in some spots are all that is left of many of our trails”.
The State of Michigan will be covering 75% of the 21 million dollars needed to rebuild the trail infrastructure, with the remainder coming from outside sources. Virtanen decided to organize a fundraiser and began rallying the snowmobile troops into action!
Virtanen was overwhelmed by the generosity and passion by those who eagerly reached out to support their efforts. Donations began to flood in, some from 300 miles away, with riders and businesses eager to help in any way they could.
Polaris Ambassador Tonya Nelson heard about the efforts to rebuild the UP Trails and knew she needed to help. “I fell in love with the UP 3 years ago. It is such a gorgeous area to ride and the residents are so warm and welcoming to snowmobilers.” Nelson explains. Helping to spread word of the fundraiser, and gather donations, she was elated when Polaris Snowmobiles reached out to support the fundraiser, donating prizes to be raffled.
The event will be held January 26th, 2019 and begins with a backcountry guided ride. There are 22 people registered for the six-hour ride that meanders through the UP. “we had to cap the ride at 22 people for safety reasons, which quickly filled up. The response was awesome” shared Virtanen. “Snowmobilers are awesome people!”.
Individuals must be 21 to participate in the evening event held at The Range Lounge in South Range Michigan. There will be live music, and endless opportunities to win one of the many prizes donated by event supporters. “There are helmets, gear bags, shovels, goggles, T-shirts, vacation packages and so much more up for grabs” Shared Nelson and all proceeds go to the Portage Health Foundation, the distributor of trail repair funds.
Matt Virtanen would like to thank all of the hard working volunteers and supporters of this fundraiser.
For more information on the event, and a complete list of sponsors, you can visit the Event Page https://www.facebook.com/events/2103637226551655/
And Follow the iRide906 group at iRide906
“Portage Health Foundation would like to thank Matt for putting this together. The Portage Health Foundation is privileged to be working with everyone and just had an update from the MDNR. If you would like to make a donation to the trail recovery effort and can’t attend the event, please visit http://www.phfgive.org/about-flood-relief.php. Simply follow the directions and put Flood/Trails in the comments section so we can properly record your donation”