West Michigan has an incredible non-motorized trail network, in no small part due to the dedication and support of Fred Meijer. In honor of that, we celebrate other local trail heroes with the Fred Meijer Trail Champion Awards each year.
Trail Volunteer: Dennis Kneibel
Dennis Kneibel has been involved in the development of West Michigan’s non-motorized trail network for more than 20 years. He tells a lot of great stories, including many revolving around triumph, hardship, and even defeat developing local trails.
Dennis says a lot has been accomplished since his first involvement with non-motorized trails. “I’m proud of how far we’ve expanded to all the different counties and how involved we are with helping communities,” he said. “The DNR and MDOT know us very well and involve us in the process. Other government agencies in counties and municipalities know us and come to us for information on how to build trails. We have all these trails now with connectivity, and we were part of that and helped set up the meetings and conferences and workshops, and to better inform the public. My big thing is that we continue that.”
Trail Professional: Tom Byle
As assistant director of engineering for the Kent County Road Commission, Tom Byle’s main job has him riding hard on the county’s 173 bridges. He’s not one to back away from challenges and has lately made a name for himself in the trail world.
“Every trail has challenges and I love challenges,” Byle said.
Since 2007 he’s been a collaborator, an idea guy, worked with other road commissions and has become an enthusiastic trail supporter. Byle has left his mark on the M-6 Trail, the Musketawa/White Pine connector, the pocket park dedicated to Fred Meijer by the Meijer headquarters and the Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail-Trail.
Trail Maintenance: Friends of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail
The Fred Meijer Heartland Trail from Greenville to Alma on the former CSX Railroad corridor travels through picturesque natural areas and fertile farm country away from the noise of any major freeway. To keep any trail safe and open maintenance is of vital importance and often falls to dedicated friends groups.
The Friends of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail is doing an awesome job taking care of their 42-mile linear trail.
The Heartland Trail group has been taking care of the trail for more than 20 years. The group includes 12 board members and 370 on the mailing list. The volunteers regularly ride the trail and report issues, and do what needs to be done to keep the trail safe and looking great.