by Karen Gentry
One of Lloyd Ball’s favorite memories involves the train going by on the former Michigan Northern section of the Penn Central Railroad in Morley around 1987. He had taken a job as a teacher in the Morley-Stanwood district in the elementary building with a wall of windows. Students would be mesmerized by the sound and the awesome sight of the train going by.
“Talk about good memories, that’s one I don’t want to forget,” said Lloyd who retired from the Morley-Stanwood district after 38 years of teaching. Later the railroad tracks would be dismantled to become part of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park. Lloyd lives steps away from the White Pine Trail after moving to Morley 21 years ago. “I consider myself to be a very fortunate person to have this wonderful resource,” said Lloyd about the White Pine Trail.
The trail is not yet paved in Morley (Sand Lake to Big Rapids is one of two unpaved sections of the trail) and unfortunately some people dump litter and waste. Lloyd has taken on the cleaning of the White Pine Trail as an almost daily responsibility. Every spring and fall he picks up trash and litter from the 7th Street intersection north to the Three Mile Road intersection.
“Sadly I come back with two to three full bags of trash and litter. I don’t understand why anyone would do that to this beautiful trail.” Lloyd said. He walks 1.5 miles north and 1.5 miles back to his home once and sometimes twice a day. During his years of cleaning the trail he’s found some unusual and everyday items includingdisposable diapers, beer cans, car parts, exhaust pipes, discarded clothing and an empty pizza box.
“I’m constantly cleaning the trail north of 7th Street.” He’s walks the White Pine Trail daily in all four seasons weather permitting. Lloyd gushes about the scenery and terrain of the White Pine Trail including the farmers’ fields, beautiful trees, wildflowers and wildlife. The farther north you go from Morley the more beautiful the trail, according to Lloyd.
“The autumn walks are breathtaking with all the colors and all of the deer,” Lloyd said. “Just last week walking north two little fawns popped out of a cornfield right in front of me.” He appreciates that the DNR grooms the trail in the winter to make it accessible. Every summer Lloyd and a handful of other dedicated trail enthusiasts walk from Morley to Big Rapids and back, a 30-mile round trip. Halfway through they lunch at Arbies on the White Pine Trail in Big Rapids before venturing back.
“When you’re with other people it goes by fast. We only do it once a summer,” Lloyd said. He’s also partial to the hot fudge sundaes at the Dairy Bear near the trail in Howard City. As a dedicated walker Lloyd loves the natural state of the trail but knows that pavement will attract more cyclists and give the area a boost. He said he will be celebrating once pavement of the trail through Morley is complete. An economically disadvantaged area, Lloyd said Morley has many small businesses that would absolutely benefit from a paved trail. Many believe upgrades and increased monitoring would help take care of the littering problem.
Lloyd is originally from Pine Township in Montcalm County. After residing for a time in Big Rapids he wanted to live in a smaller place and decided on Morley, population about 500, because of connections with people in the area and the natural beauty. The former lumbering town on the Little Muskegon River has a long history with many families going back multiple generations.
“I loved Big Rapids when I was there but as I matured some of my priorities have changed,” Lloyd said. “I wanted to be a little closer to my original home area and still wanted to be in Mecosta County so Morley made the most sense to me.” While an instructor and teacher in the elementary and middle school he met many families in the Morley-Stanwood school district. He appreciates the helpfulness of Morley area residents such as when everybody helped each other after the straight-line winds in 1998. He has given back by helping many Morley area families over the years.
“My life was devoted to teaching special needs and special education students and doing everything I could to better their education,” Lloyd said. Now he is enjoying every minute of retirement and his role as the keeper of the White Pine Trail in his home area.
Now is the time to nominate the 2017 Fred Meijer Trail Champions. Nominations are needed in three categories:
- Trail Volunteer – individual
- Trail Professional – individual
- Trail Maintenance – individual or group
Winners will be recognized at the WMTGC Annual Meeting on Thursday, October 12 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Last year’s winners included volunteer Dennis Kneibel, professional Tom Byle, and maintenance group the Friends of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail.
Fred Meijer was West Michigan’s ultimate trail champion. His vision,belief, and support were instrumental to our trail network enjoyed by so many people for recreation, exercise, and transportation.Yet Fred would be the first to recognize that numerous dedicated individuals and groups contribute significantly to the development and maintenance of our trails. This annual award honors Fred’s legacy and recognizes the contributions of those individuals and groups.
To nominate please include the nominee and category, nominee and nominator contact information, and a description of the nominee’s contributions and/or qualifications for the specific award.
Since 2016, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has been developing a regional non motorized plan and new bike maps for the 13-county Grand Region. The plan will serve as a tool for not only MDOT staff, but for stakeholders, agencies, and organizations in the region. The main goals of the project include:
- Document the existing and proposed nonmotorized network in the region
- Help prioritize nonmotorized investment in the region
- Foster cooperative planning across municipal and county boundaries
- Understand what exists and is planned so efforts can be coordinated
- Create new Grand Region bike maps
Completion of the updated Grand Region Nonmotorized Plan is expected by the end of August 2017. Visit walkbike.info/grandregion for updates and the completed plan, as well as information on where to find the new Grand Region bike maps.
Fred Meijer Berry Junction Trail
Construction is well underway with paving done along Whitehall Road north of Lake Avenue/Holton Road and east on West Giles Road. Construction is expected to continue north to West McMillan Road and the trail completed this fall or spring of 2018.
Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park
Efforts are being made to begin construction this fall on nearly 12 miles between LeRoy and Reed City. Two things need to happen:
- Final push for individual financial support to reach the fundraising goal. Special thanks go to Osceola CountyCommunity Foundation for a grant getting us close to that goal.
- A large and expensive culvert, not originally part of this project, needs to be replaced before paving can begin.Waiting is not an option because of the length of trail that would need to be repaved from construction damage. Additional funds are being sought to replace the culvert before paving.
Fundraising efforts will begin soon to pave the remaining 29 miles between Big Rapids and Sand Lake.
The planning phase of this trail between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids is called River2River. Two public meeting shave been held with two more scheduled.
- August 9 in Wayland
- September 14 in Plainwell
The planning phase should be completed in late 2017 and will include a plan on moving forward with the project.Look to r2rtrailplan.org for details and to add your input.
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