Kent County Parks Department E-mail Newsletter
This issue of Green Places, featuring trails, was nearly finished when we heard of Fred Meijer passing away. Fred Meijer was a great supporter of Kent County parks and trails.
I first met Fred in 1990 when I showed him around some property the Parks Department was interested in purchasing. That property later became the Pickerel Lake-Fred Meijer Nature Preserve. Fred supported the initial acquisition of 235 acres and then helped again to purchase an additional 70 acres. He particularly liked the floating boardwalk that used a composite material made from sawdust and recycled plastic grocery bags.
As we walked around Pickerel Lake, he also asked about another project he was considering supporting. Something called a botanical garden. Fred later defined the meaning of a world class garden and sculpture park.
Fred got a taste of trails as an early user of Kent Trails, opened by the Parks Department in 1992. His real passion began in 1994 when he funded the acquisition of the Heartland Trail north of his hometown of Greenville. Eventually, he championed trails throughout West Michigan and is a primary reason Michigan has become the #1 state in the nation for miles of trails. Fred's support helped Kent County Parks build the M-6 Trail and the new trail connecting the Musketawa Trail and Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park.
Fred was an original contributor toward the general development of Millennium Park, and became the park's largest benefactor with the creation of the park's extensive trail network.
On Oct. 24, 2011, Fred Meijer received the Trail Champion Award from the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, recognizing his outstanding dedication to trails.
Talking with Fred Meijer was always fun. He will be deeply missed in the park and trail community, both for his generous support of our causes and for his humble vision, wisdom and leadership.
Kent County Parks Director
|New Trail to Link Musketawa|
and White Pine Trails
Work is already underway
A few years back, Congressman Vern Ehlers was instrumental in helping us secure a federal transportation grant to complete a connector trail in western Kent County linking the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail to the Musketawa Trail. Now, thanks to the efforts of a broad partnership including funding from Fred Meijer, this new spoke in our trail hub will be open to trail users in the summer of 2012.
It took a lot of head scratching to plan a route, but the final route truly reflects all the partners that have helped make it a reality. In particular, Jim Radabaugh, Section Manager for the Recreation and Trails Section of the DNR's Forest Management Division has been a real leader on this project. Also, the Kent County Road Commission provided invaluable expertise in planning the entire route and overseeing construction.
The new connector trail will be the most significant trail project following an active rail line in the State of Michigan. At the western end where it connects with the Musketawa Trail, the route follows a rail corridor acquired long ago by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The same is true at the eastern end where it follows an abandoned rail line recently acquired by the DNR along West River Dr.
Construction of the tunnel under Fruitridge Ave.
As it enters Kent County, the trail picks up an easement along a rail corridor granted by the Coopersville Marne Railroad.
Following this easement, the route passes under Fruitridge Ave in a new tunnel permitted by the City of Walker. Just west of the tunnel, the trail also follows a significant easement generously provided by Irwin Seating at no cost to the project.
The Michigan Department of Transportation granted permission for the trail to use the I-96 right-of-way east of Walker Ave and again between Alpine Ave and West River Drive. At the intersection of Walker Ave and 3 Mile Rd the trail passes the national headquarters of Meijer, Inc.
Finally, after following 3 Mile Rd and crossing Alpine Ave, the new trail crosses private land on three separate easements. The largest of these was generously donated by Otterbase, Inc.
When the connection is complete this spring, you'll be able to follow a continuous trail route from Muskegon all the way to Cadillac. Good thing you have all winter to plan!
|Millennium Park Trails - Phase III|
Bridging gaps in the Fred Meijer Millennium Park Trail Network
The new trail bridge over Maynard Ave is lowered into place by crane.
When Millennium Park first opened in 2003, the only area accessible to the public was the highly developed recreation core. The beach, fishing decks, playgrounds and other features there are extremely popular, but the recreation core represents only a fraction of the entire area of the park. Long range plans always called for a vast trail network allowing visitors to explore the full 1,500 acres of the park. So, a few years back, Fred Meijer and The Meijer Foundation stepped in and offered to help make this dream a reality.
Since 2008, we've been building an extensive network of new trails throughout the natural areas of Millennium Park. This year, much of the work was finished on the final segments. The new connections will make exploring the entire park a breeze and complete a much-needed link to the Fred Meijer Standale Trail.
With nearly 20 miles of trail on the ground at Millennium Park, trail users can now enjoy a wide variety of experiences. From a peaceful walk on the Hansen Nature Trail, to a 10 mile run or ride along interconnected loops and spurs of paved trails, you can discover the park at your own pace and in your own way. We have more information and a current map of the trails at Millennium Park available online.
Next year we'll complete the final work of installing kiosks and maps at all the trailheads throughout the park.
|Kent Trails 20-Year Agreement Renewed|
Six Partner Agencies Agree to Continue Historic Collaboration
If you know anyone who was a 6th grader at St. Francis Xavier School about 40 years ago, be sure to thank them for being an early pioneer in the history of Kent County trails. Back in the early 70's, these students appeared before the Kent County Parks Commission to "request consideration for establishing bicycle trails throughout Kent County."
Instead of smiling and turning their attention to other matters, the Parks Department took the request seriously. Around 1972, staff began studying and planning for possible bike routes. Two years later, the first dedicated bike trail in Kent County was in place, running along the western border of Palmer Park. Eventually the much more ambitious project of Kent Trails began taking shape.
The idea of Kent Trails must have seemed a little improbable at the time, yet in 1991 everything somehow pulled together. Working with Wyoming, Walker, Grand Rapids, Grandville and Byron Township, Kent County formed a 20-year partnership to create Kent Trails. The trail would cross five municipal borders along a patchwork of easements, railroad right of ways, road shoulders and parks. All partners would contribute financially to support the trail, and the Kent County Parks Department would design, build and manage it. This ground-breaking partnership resulted in one of our region's most popular and long-lived trails.
This fall, all the governing bodies of the original six municipal partners stood up for Kent Trails once more. By enacting a new 20 year agreement, the partners voted in favor of collaborations that work and the strong links between communities that trails provide. We are grateful for the support of these elected officials and our partner agencies. And also for the visionary 6th graders from St. Francis Xavier School.
Dedication ceremony 20 years ago.
Bike styles may change, but Kent Trails will always be in fashion.
|Division Ave Bridge Coming Soon|
to Fred Meijer M-6 Trail
Construction Begins This Spring
Thanks to a recent grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the popular M-6 Trail will soon have a safe crossing over Division Ave. Currently, trail users must cross about a half mile away, using the traffic light at the 68th Street intersection. To significantly improve this situation, construction will begin this spring on a new trail bridge in line with the trail, adjacent to the M-6 highway bridge.
The new bridge will provide a safe route for trail users to cross this busy section of Division Ave.
The Grand Rapids Community Foundation is providing funding to leverage the remaining funds in the original Federal Transportation grant for the trail. The Meijer Foundation also provided significant support early in the process.
The new bridge is the first step in filling the gap between Division Ave. and US 131. The route will use sidewalks in this area until funding is secured to construct a dedicated trail.
|North-South Link on Thornapple Trail|
Connection in Place with the Help of Steelcase
Unlike Kent Trails that came together in one massive effort, the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail in southeast Kent County has grown in small steps and jumps through the years. This fall we made a huge leap by initiating the construction of 1.2 miles of trail between 76th and 68th Streets.
A new section of the Thornapple Trail
is ready for paving this spring
The new segment of trail provides access to existing trail sections, stretching from the 60th and East Paris intersection south to 76th St. This connection was made possible by easements generously granted by Steelcase, along East Paris south of 60th and from 68th to 76th. Thank you Steelcase!
This new connection will be completed in spring 2012. By following connecting trails, trail users can now get from the John Ball Zoo all the way to Caledonia, along Kent Trails, the M-6 Trail and the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail itself. Eventually, connections through downtown Grand Rapids will link Caledonia to Muskegon and Cadillac!
|Volunteer Services Update|
Wrapping Up a Great Year
The Kent County Parks Annual Fall Clean was a huge success due to the contributions of so many of our KCP Volunteers! High school students, college students, corporate group employees, community group members and our regular individual volunteers pitched in to remove invasive species, rake leaves, clean up trails, trim bushes and pick up trash at many of our county parks, including Wabasis Lake Park, Millennium Park, M-6 Trail, Kent Trails and Provin Trails Park! Thank you volunteers!
And a big THANK YOU to all of our fantastic volunteers who contributed their time at the Kent County Parks throughout 2011! Nearly 50 corporate and community groups along with hundreds of individuals made a huge difference at our county parks by removing invasive species, cleaning up trails and green spaces, and working on special projects! Check out the photo albums of our 2011 projects by visiting Kent County Parks Department Volunteer Services Facebook!
Happy Holidays to everyone from Volunteer Services!
A Cedar Springs group helps during our Fall Clean at Wabasis Lake Park
For more information or to sign up for a volunteer project, contact Ginny Sines at email@example.com
Be sure to visit our Volunteer Services program on Facebook!
Return to Top of Page
|Cross Country Ski Trails at Palmer Park|
$2 Off Ski Rentals and Ski Season Passes with Coupon Below!
The L.E. Kaufman clubhouse is located at 4807 Clyde Park Ave SW. Winter hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily when there are four or more inches of snow on the ground. Our trails are marked and groomed.
When the first solid blanket of snow covers West Michigan, most of Kent County's trails disappear for the winter. However, things are just starting to "heat up" at Palmer Park.
Skiers journey into the woods at Palmer Park
Under the cover of snow, the clubhouse at L.E. Kaufman Golf Course transforms into a hub of cross country skiing activity. In recent years, this 335 acres park in the heart of the southwest side has become an increasingly popular destination for people looking for quick escape to nature.
If you use your own equipment, the trail fee is just $2 per person. Season passes are available for $25 per person.
If you're just starting out or looking to try something new, we also rent skis in all sizes inside the clubhouse. Rentals are $8 for adults, $7 for kids, or $25 for a family of up to five adults and children. Our trail fee is included in these rental fees.
Be sure to see our coupon at the end of this e-mail!
The clubhouse also has heated restrooms and a limited selection of snacks and beverages for sale.
For more information, please call 538-5050. You can also find a trail map and more information on our website.
|Kent County Parks Foundation|
Your Gifts Supporting Kent County Parks and Trails
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our donors and members for their generosity in supporting our efforts this year. The membership program has increased nearly 100% over this time last year - thank you! Thank you for your part in getting the word out about the needs of our parks. Thank you for your personal financial support. And thank you getting out to the parks!
Click here to contribute or become a member
Furthermore, we would like to welcome to the Board of Directors two new members: Marilyn Titche and Patrick Drueke. If you have an interest in serving on the board, please let us know: (616) 458-2080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward, Something's Grilling (our biggest event) will be coming up in 2012. This is a fun and hilarious outdoor event recognizing and celebrating our generous donors. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, contact Pam Spencer at (616) 458-2080 or email@example.com.
|About Kent County Parks and Trails
The Kent County Parks Department enhances the quality of life in Kent County by establishing and maintaining outstanding parks to meet the needs of the county's growing population. The department efficiently provides recreational, environmental, and social benefits by adhering to high standards and coordinating with individuals and organizations. In total, we manage 38 properties totaling 6,712 acres, as well as four regional trails. Kent County parks and trails are supported by the County general fund, fees for services at our parks, and donations of money and time by private individuals.
We appreciate your support of Kent County Parks, and hope you continue to enjoy the wide variety of recreational opportunities we provide.