posted on October 25, 2012
WALKER, MI — Lena Meijer cracked a smile and gave her son, Doug, a peck on the cheek after he closed out a ceremony honoring the late retail magnate Fred Meijer.
Behind the pair, on the corner of Walker Avenue and 3 Mile Road outside Meijer corporate headquarters, sat a bronze statue of Fred on a bench, the centerpiece of a small park commemorating his contributions to an extensive West Michigan trail network bearing his name.
“My parents have been a great example for my brothers and me, and to all of us, when it comes to giving back to the community,” said Doug Meijer, co-chair of Meijer Inc.
“And their commitment to the trails never wavered,” he added. “And as a family, we plan on keeping up that tradition, that passion that dad had for the trails.”
After months of planning and work, Lena Meijer joined her and Fred’s three sons, Meijer Inc. CEO and Co-Chair Hank, Doug and Life EMS Inc. founder Mark, on Monday, Oct. 22, in officially opening the Fred Meijer Pioneer Trail.
It will be the last of a dozen trails bearing the name of the billionaire philanthropist who died last November at age 91.
Over a span of decades, Fred Meijer donated millions to create and grow a sprawling network composed of hundreds of miles of recreational trails.
A reclining statue of Fred Meijer is visible beyond the shoulder of his wife, Lena, during a ceremony to open the last of the dozen trails bearing his name on Monday, Oct. 22. Fred Meijer died last November at age 91. His son, Meijer Inc. Co-Chair Doug, sits at right.
Zane McMillin | MLive.com
The park is the brainchild of the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition, created after Fred Meijer donated $3 million in matching dollars to ensure the future maintenance of his trails.
The coalition, helmed by Sharon Nunnelee, donated $20,000 of $35,000 to build the park along the Pioneer Trail, which will connect the Musketawa and Fred Meijer White Pine trails.
“Fred Meijer was a trail pioneer and champion, who gave so much to the trails and communities of West Michigan,” Nunnelee said.
The Fred Meijer trails are credited with generating an economic boon for West Michigan communities, and putting the region on the map among trail enthusiasts and groups.
Before age limited his abilities, Fred Meijer often would bike or walk on his own trail network, as would his children, Doug Meijer said.
“The trails were truly a passion of his,” Meijer said. “He used them and we all used them as kids. We would ride our bikes to Riverside Park, we would ride our bikes to Aberdeen Park, and he always had a fondness for parks and the trails.”
The diamond-shaped park in which the statue of Fred Meijer sits is paved with engraved bricks, purchased by individuals and groups to help fund its construction.
MLive.com File Photo
Flowerbeds line the sidewalks through the park, and a row of small trees stand behind three benches at the park’s rear.
After remarks from the Meijer family and the groups behind the park and Pioneer Trail, the 100 or so gathered walked over to a red ribbon suspended above the trail.
Lena Meijer stood between her sons, each wielding a pair of large scissors, and the group cut the ribbon to applause.
“I have no doubt,” said Walker Mayor Rob VerHeulen, who is deputy general counsel of Meijer Inc., “that this trail, this park and this sculpture will in fact create a legacy that will touch lives for generations.”
Zane McMillin may be reached through email and Twitter.
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