Jim Thomas with family Pavilion

City of Negaunee Celebrates Completion of Jackson Mine Park Pavilion Project with Surprise Dedication Ceremony

NEGAUNEE, MICH. – The Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP) recently assisted the City of Negaunee with a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of construction of the Jim Thomas Pavilion.

During the ribbon cutting, the City of Negaunee held a surprise dedication ceremony to dedicate the pavilion to Jim Thomas. Thomas, a native son of Negaunee, was instrumental as one of the founding members of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail Authority and its trail system.

Planning for the pavilion began in 2012 when the Negaunee Parks and Recreation Committee established a pavilion sub-committee and submitted a grant application for the project in 2017. The City of Negaunee broke ground on the project in the summer of 2019, after the Negaunee City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to accept a $291,000 grant from the Michigan DNR Trust Fund. The total cost of the pavilion is $485,100, with the City of Negaunee’s required to match at $194,100. Other funding was sourced from the Cliffs and Eagle Mine Marquette County Community Fund which donated $70,000, the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority which donated $25,000 and the Negaunee Area Community Fund which donated $8,500.

“Jim is the example of what it is to be a community leader. Through is his leadership, dedication, and collaboration with others we this wonderful trail system today”, said City of Negaunee Manager Nate Heffron.

The Jim Thomas Pavilion is located at 199 Tobin Street in Negaunee, near the Iron Ore Heritage trail spur. The 55×30 pavilion includes a covered recreation area for picnicking and events, restrooms, onsite parking and will eventually include a kitchen.  For questions or to reserve the pavilion, please call the City of Negaunee Parks and Recreation Department at (906)475-7900.

Pictured: Jim Thomas surrounded by family and friends, MDNR, Cleveland Cliffs, Inc., Jay Gage, Senator Stabenow’s Office, Joe Boogren, Forsyth Township Supervisor, Nate Heffron, Negaunee City Manager, Jason Wallner, Negaunee Mayor, State Senator Ed McBroom, Iron Ore Heritage Trail Recreation Authority, Aubrey Moore, Senator Peters’ Office, and George LaBlonde, Senator Peters’ Office.


For more information, contact the Lake Superior Community Partnership at (906) 226-6591. Prepared by Megan O’Connor.

The Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP) is the region’s leading resource for economic development, providing a wide variety of affordable and effective development services. The LSCP helps our partners make the connections that matter – between businesses, organizations, leaders and legislators, and provides a powerful legislative voice for programs and policies that strengthen our regional economy. More information on the Lake Superior Community Partnership can be found at www.marquette.org.


Speech from Mayor Jason Wallner


Welcome everyone to today’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the Jackson Mine Park Pavilion Project.  A special welcome to our honored dignitaries who have joined us today from our Federal, State, county and local governments, as well as community organizations and partners who have assisted the city on this journey.

As our city manager mentioned, today we mark a new beginning.  This project is the first of many planned investments in our parks, recreational space, and infrastructure throughout the community.  It is most fitting that this new pavilion was built near the location where iron ore was first discovered in the mid-1800s and giving life to our beloved Irontown.  Many things have changed, but the pioneer spirit found in the people of this community has not.

Long before we began our Moving Forward campaign, visionaries saw the potential to breath new life into our community while paying tribute to our rich history and honoring our forebearers on the Iron Range.  Adjacent to this pavilion is one such great example. The Iron Ore Heritage Trail.  A 47-mile, multi-use, year-round trail connecting our communities and people to the region’s historic sites and human stories.  Designed for walkers, bikers, runners, wanderers, history buffs, and more, the trail follows mostly abandoned railroad corridors that were once used to bring lumber to furnaces and forges and iron ore to the Lake Superior Harbor.  The pavilion here is one stop of many along the interpretive trail and we hope this pavilion will serve as a gathering place for community activities, festivals, family events, and educational activities.

Planning for this project began with our Parks and Recreation Committee in 2012.  A grant application was submitted in 2017 and awarded in 2019 by the Michigan DNR Trust Fund in the amount of $291,000.  Additional funding for the city’s required match of $194,100 came from the Cliff and Eagle Mine Marquette County Community Fund, Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority, and Negaunee Area Community Fund for a total cost of $485,100.

Aside from the parties previously mentioned, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Parks and Recreation Committee members for their vision along with the city staff and department of public works employees who put in the countless hours to create what we see before us today.

With this ribbon cutting today, we are paying tribute to one such visionary I spoke of a few moments ago who exemplifies the pioneer spirit.  I have had the privilege of knowing today’s honoree since I was a young man.  They helped shape not only my education, but that of many others throughout our communities.  Personally, they were a source of wisdom and knowledge I reached out to for mentorship and guidance as I myself entered public service.  Both during and following a distinguished career as an educator, this individual continued their service to not only Negaunee, but the surrounding communities helping to make the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, and the park we see here today, a reality.  At this time, I’d like to recognize our honoree with the unveiling of the Jim Thomas Pavilion. Mr. Thomas, could you please step forward at this time.


Official Proclamation Issued

In Honor of Jim Thomas


In recognition of the diligent effort and dedication he has shown his community in pursuing dreams for a multi-use trail system spanning all of Marquette County. Jim gathered like-minded individuals and sought community, state, and federal support, researched the area, and developed his own maps as the impetus to what would become the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

Ground broke on August 2nd, 2008, officially signifying the birth of a local gem in this year-round, multi-use, interpretive trail with several trailheads and landmarks. It is a shining example of what a community can strive for and accomplish together. Only through the dedication and perseverance of many volunteers and visionaries like Jim, can a dream come true and enhance the quality of life for all of the residents of a community.

Jim served as Chair of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail Board from 2007 to 2019 with great dedication and honor. Jim himself could be seen on the trail, clearing downed trees, installing kiosks and mile markers, and promoting the trail through educational outreach and continuous improvements. The hard work of the Iron Ore Heritage Authority, as the group of volunteers would come to be known, is still evident today. Their efforts have pioneered this iconic trail, spanning from Chocolay Township to Republic Township, touching the cities of Marquette, Negaunee, and Ishpeming, and on through the townships of Marquette, Negaunee, Ishpeming, Ely, and Humboldt.

Jim’s other notable accolades include: the 1998 Marquette and Alger Counties Kellogg Educator Incentive Award for Excellence in Administration, the 1993 – 1994 Ishpeming Public School District’s “Drug-Free School Award for Excellence”,  the recipient of the 1993 Youth for Understanding International Student Exchange’s “International Education Award of Excellence”, the 2008 Citizen of the Year Award (Marquette County Ambassadors), the 2008-2009 Citizen of the Year Award for the Negaunee Elks Club, awarded for the Promotion and Construction of the Iron Ore Heritage Walking & Biking Trail, the 2009 Distinguished Individual Award Presented by the Lake Superior Community Partnership, and the 2010 Hometown Health Hero Award, awarded for the Promotion and Construction of the Iron Ore Heritage Walking & Biking Trail by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Jim has also served for many outstanding area service organizations including the Negaunee Elks Club, Negaunee Lions Club, Negaunee Historical Society, Negaunee Rod and Gun Club, Negaunee Iron Town, Marquette County Habitat for Humanity, Negaunee City Council, and Negaunee City Board of Review.

With gratitude, the City of Negaunee hereby names this park pavilion in honor of its native son, Jim Thomas, and places this permanent marker to forever pay tribute to Jim, and to act as a testament to the exemplary public service and tenacious commitment that he has so graciously provided to our community.