Adjacent Property Acquisition from the Keweenaw County

Current Status:
Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners to hold a public meeting on December 6th, 2021 about the latest proposed purchase agreement, with the purpose of getting all of the trails open in 2022.  

In 2017, Keweenaw County carved out 177 acres of property they owned, which included the lodge building, the cabins, the hotel (currently employee housing), maintenance structures, and the golf course that is now considered the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. This 177 acres was sold to Keweenaw Resort, LLC in 2018, and is the current Keweenaw Mountain Lodge property. 

The original property, in 1934, included 167 acres, with an additional 10-12 acres added. The additional 10-12 acres is where the 11 forest-side cabins are located on (see property map). This makes up the ~177 acres that the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge currently operates on, and is laid out in the survey below (see the survey below, which was done in 2017).

After the carve out in 2017, and the sell in 2018, this left approximately 380 acres that Keweenaw County owned adjacent to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. This land is north and northwest of the current lodge property, as illustrated in the map (the red line is ~380 acres adjacent to the KML property; Keweenaw County Park is the land that is currently the Kewenaw Mountain Lodge).

Since purchasing the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in 2018, the Lodge leadership has been working to operate year-round. In March 2020, it was announced that the Lodge would have winter operations, and be a year-round operation.

During the summer of 2020, as Keweenaw Mountain Lodge leadership explored the winter outdoor activities for year-round operations, research was done on the snow terrain park that was operated by the county at the Lodge during the winters of 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. In mapping out the existing snow terrain park, it showed that part of the snow terrain park was on the property that was sold in 2018 and part of it was on county property.

So in August 2020, the Lodge approached Keweenaw County to revitalize the snow terrain park in the same area where it operated during the winters of 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. With the original snow terrain park partly on Lodge property and partly on county property, the Lodge requested to have an easement put in place in order to operate the snow terrain park starting in the 2020-2021 winter. This proposal is provided below:

The county commissioners examined the proposal during multiple meetings in August and September. After review and discussion, it was decided that the county would like to sell the property, as they did not want to have the liability of the snow terrain park along with the liability that goes along with the mountain biking trails on the entire property the county owned adjacent to the Lodge. The Lodge was a willing buyer for the adjacent property (~380 acres).

The Lodge’s vision is to provide and foster outdoor activities in the wilderness. This is for its guests, as well as the general public (see the outdoor activities that the Lodge provides to get an understanding of this philosophy). Ensuring that the trails and the wilderness near the Lodge are fostered to be the best in the nation is the main intention for this purchase. This entails having a balance between structural and infrastructure development, wilderness trail development, and nature.

So with that, upon the county’s request, the Lodge has spent a considerable amount of time negotiating with the Copper Harbor Trails Club and KORC to draft terms for trail and conservation easements that will be on ~310 acres of the property, with the remaining acreage (~70 acres) being in a development envelope. There are 10-11 miles of trails on the 380 acre property. The development envelope is setup to allow for intelligent development that is in harmony with the Keweenaw wilderness (Lodge leadership uses Grant Grove Village in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Parks as an example).

A purchase agreement between Keweenaw County and Keweenaw Resort, LLC (the owner of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge) was signed on March 1, 2021, with a closing to take place within 90 days.

In Summary: The purchase of the adjacent land to the Lodge, with the trails and conservation easements, ensure that the trails will stay in tact and the property to retain its wilderness feel with intelligent and harmonious development.

Easements Put in Place of the 1946 Deed Restriction

To understand why the two easements are important to put in place for this purchase, one must understand the request to remove a 1946 deed restriction (reverter) on the adjacent property (per the Michigan Department of Natural Resources). The deed restriction from 1946 said that the property should be accessible by the general public, or it would revert to the state of Michigan. It was simply worded, with not much explanation. So this caused concern for both the Lodge and the county. There was case law that suggested the transaction could possibly trigger the deed restriction and revert the property to the State of Michigan. The Lodge’s intentions is to provide and foster outdoor activities in the wilderness, not just for its guests but for the public; however, it is not in the best interest for any organization to have funds not be fully utilized — and purchasing property that then is reverted to neither the seller or buyer without any payback would not be in the best interest of either the county nor the Lodge. So, if the Lodge purchased the property with the 1946 deed restriction reverter on it, those funds would not be utilized in a good fashion.  It was thus decided between the county and the Lodge to see if the deed restriction (1946 reverter) could be changed to trail and conversation easements.

Upon negotiations, it was decided to have a trails easement and a conservation easement consisting of 310 acres, while having a 70-acre development envelope (which allows for the opportunity of a snow terrain park).

Update Log

  • December 6, 2021: Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners public meeting about the latest proposed purchase agreement (with the trails easement and the conservation easement).
  • November 19, 2021: We have talked with both the DNR and Keweenaw County representatives, and both have agreed in principal to revitalize this purchase agreement — with the purpose of getting the trails open for 2022.
  • July 16, 2021: This transaction is no longer active in its current state. As of July 16, 2021, we have pulled our offer to acquire the property.

[ Last updated November 27, 2021 ]