Trail Link - Winter 2017

Trail Link - Winter 2017

Friends Group Forums: Hold An Event On Your Trail

Trail groups and trail enthusiasts have expressed a need for a way to share and learn from each other with what works and what doesn’t in managing trails. We think the best way to do that is in person, and so WMTGC is hosting the first in a series of Forums to bring you together for just that.

Join us for Trail Events and Programming on Wednesday, March 15 beginning at 6 p.m. at Brann’s Steakhouse & Sports Grille (401 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, 49504). Mary McGuire Slevin from Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance will discuss organizing the large-scale Michigander as well as the smaller scale Trail Towns Tour. The evening will be beneficial to veteran event organizers as well as those thinking of having an event on their trail. Get to know each other and get to know what it takes to host an event on your trail!

Mary’s presentation will start the conversation and questions, and then much of the time will be discussion, learning from each other, and meeting fellow trail enthusiasts. Dinner and drinks are available for purchase. So we have an idea of how many to expect, please RSVP at Details will be coming soon on other Forums this year covering topics like maintenance, fundraising, and volunteers.

Save the Date!

The WMTGC Annual Meeting will take place Thursday, October 12 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Look for more information in upcoming newsletters as well as an email invitation later this summer. If you would like to be on our email list and don’t think you already are, please let us know at

Board of Director Changes

The WMTGC has seen some changes in the past months. We are happy to welcome two new members to the board, and sad to see a longtime member


Aaron Bodbyl-Mast comes to us from Ottawa County Parks and Recreation. He has nearly 15 years of experience with planning and recreation and is passionate that thoughtfully and well-designed recreational facilities can transform a community. Aaron played a major role in the development of the Spoonville Trail in Ottawa County. He thinks outside the box with trails and has already brought great ideas for the development of our regional trail network and the operations of WMTGC.





Christopher Zull is the Traffic Safety Manager for the City of Grand Rapids. He is responsible for maintaining and operating street lighting, signs, and signals throughout Grand Rapids and parts of the Grand Region, as well as traffic engineering, pavement markings, and bicycle infrastructure. He has overseen the installation of approximately 80 miles of on-street bike facilities in the city and the campaign. His expertise will help WMTGC merge the trail network with bicycle infrastructure as well the development of way finding signs and systems.



Karen Gentry resigned from the WMTGC board in January after nearly 10 years of service. As the author of several bicycle tourism books, Karen played a strong role in the development what was originally West Michigan Trails Magazine. She continues to work with what is now Michigan Trails Magazine, now covering the entire state, exploring and writing about the trails as well as selling advertising. She promises to continue volunteering for WMTGC and plans to be more involved with the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park.



3 Big Trail Projects in 2017

Exciting progress is taking place in 2017 with some key trails in West Michigan. Here are 3 to watch!


It is very exciting to see that construction is well underway with the final phase of the Berry Junction Trail. Work began in the fall and the unseasonably mild winter has allowed it to continue in recent months. With completion expected in late 2017 or early 2018, trail users will be able to go from North Muskegon to Hart all on non-motorized trails. Three other important links will soon connect this system to the Musketawa Trail and ultimately to the White Pine, making it possible to go from Hart to Muskegon to Grand Rapids to Cadillac, all on trails.


Commonly called the Interurban Trail for the old rail line it’s anticipated to follow, this project will link the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail to the trail system in Grand Rapids. Communities along the way have contributed for the planning phase, which is now also funded by an MDNR grant. What you will see in 2017 is Wightman & Associates hosting public outreach meeting for input on local needs and the best route for the trail, a plan for moving forward, and a plan for a trail authority or other governing body. This is exciting progress as the project has been stalled for more than 10 years.


Forty-one miles of this 93-mile trail between Cadillac and Grand Rapids still need to be paved, including 11+ miles between LeRoy and Reed City and 29+ miles between Big Rapids and Sand Lake. WMTGC received a grant from the MDNR to do public outreach and fundraising to complete the trail. Construction on the 11-mile section is expected to begin in late 2017 or early 2018, and we’ll be working hard to get the 29-mile section paved shortly thereafter. The completed White Pine will be a destination trail in West Michigan, attracting visitors from around the country and around the world.


Fred Meijer Trail Champion Awards

In 2016, West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition celebrated two individuals and one trail group with the first annual Fred Meijer Trail Champion Awards: 

  • Trail Volunteer: Dennis Kneibel, for 15 years of work and leadership with WMTGC
  • Trail Professional: Tom Byle, Kent County Road Commission, for his expertise, professionalism, and creative ways around obstacles in the development of numerous trails
  • Trail Maintenance: Friends of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail, for an outstanding volunteer-led maintenance program that has kept their trail in good shape beyond its life expectancy 

In 2017 we’re looking for your nominations for these categories with winners being announced at our annual meeting at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on October 12. Watch for how to make your nominations in the Spring edition of Trail Link and on our website.

2017 Trail Events

MAY 13: Kal-Haven Trail Blazer
This annual event is the “official” open of the trail for the season. Ride between Kalamazoo and South Haven, start at either location and ride both ways, or take a shuttle in the morning and ride back to your car at either location.



JULY 15-22: Michigander Bike Tour
This tour from Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance combines beautiful trails, Great Lakes beaches, lighthouses, rivers, virgin white pines, and vineyards in the vibrant region known as Northwest Michigan. The fully supported tour includes 2-day, 6-day, and combined 8-day options.



AUGUST 11-12: The Fred Running Relay
The Fred 200-Mile Relay includes 36 “spurs” or legs, each ranging from 2 to 9.5 miles in distance, spanning the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail from Comstock Park to Cadillac. There are also 100-mile and 50-mile options available.



OCTOBER 1: Trail Towns Tour
Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance presents a fall color bicycle tour of the trail towns of South Lyon, Wixom, and Milford on this 30-35 mile ride. The interconnected trail network in Southwest Oakland County is a combination of paved trails, dirt roads, and an option of undeveloped trails, with an optional 22 additional paved miles.





Funding for Our Non-motorized Trails

   The Nonmotorized Advisory Workgroup (NAW), a subcommittee of the Michigan Trails Advisory Council (MTAC), has begun an effort to search for new funding for nonmotorized trail main­tenance and operation. The first step of this initiative calls for quantifying and qualifying the current reality and needs of existing nonmotorized trails by those who manage them.

That’s where we need your help! To establish a baseline of how much friends groups and volunteers bring to the table, and how much private investment is currently going into nonmotorized trails, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) is requesting your help in completing a survey. If you don’t have specific studies or logged hours, please complete what you can so NAW and MTAC can get a good picture of where Michigan’s trails currently stand in terms of investment and needs. Please complete the survey by March 1, 2017, and thank you for your assistance with this important task!

Questions? Contact Nancy Krupiarz at MTGA: 517-485-6022 or


Updating our Region's Non-motorized Plan

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is working to develop a regional non-motorized plan and new bike maps for the Grand Region to serve as tools for MDOT staff and other stakeholders, agencies, and organizations in the region. WMTGC has a seat with the non-motorized plan core team developing these plans, which will:

  • Document existing and proposed network (13 county area)
  • Be used as a tool to help prioritize non-motorized investment in the region
  • Continue to foster cooperative planning across jurisdictions
  • Understand what exists and what is planned so everyone’s efforts can be coordinated
  • Develop new Grand Region Bike Maps

More than 140 people attended open houses around the region in the past months to share input, initiatives, projects, and plans that can be incorporated into the overall Grand Region Non-motorized Plan. Visit the project website to see what has been done, add your input, and to keep up to date with the project.


Support WMTGC!

In 2017 your West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition is focused on numerous improvements to our regional trail network. Mentioned in this newsletter are important steps toward getting the whole White Pine Trail paved in asphalt, completing the planning phase of the trail between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, finding the next honorees for the Fred Meijer Trail Champion Awards, and bringing regional friends groups and trail enthusiasts together in Forums to learn from each other and enhance how we all operate our trails. We’re also working with local agencies and nonprofits to develop a way finding and signage system that can take trail users between trails, biking infrastructure, and roads, and that works across municipalities and across the region.

Between all these projects we also raise funds to keep the coalition operating. Your financial support helps keep us going so we can continue to advocate for and improve West Michigan’s trail network. There are three easy ways to donate:

  • Online: go to our donation page

    • With a check: Send to West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition (P.O. Box 325, Comstock Park, MI 49321
    • Donate stock: contact John Morrison at or 616-485-7805 for information

    You support is greatly appreciated by the staff and board of WMTGC, and the many non-motorized trail users in West Michigan.



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