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. The video below celebrates Fred's role in our local trail development.
Trail Volunteer: Sue Hodapp
Kalamazoo resident Sue Hodapp is a Master Gardener from the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program. For many years she has led a group maintaining native plants between F and G Avenues in Kalamazoo County. This is a wonderfully scenic section of trail featuring the ascent of the Kalamazoo Moraine and mature woodlands.
Her activities have included eradication of invasive plants, encouragement of Michigan wildflowers, placing informational signage, and careful trimming to maintain the trail. Friends on her email list will know about her organized and detailed emails for work projects on the Kal-Haven Trail (read more).
- Trail Professional: Scott Post
Scott Post is an award winning civil engineer working for Prein & Newhof and has devoted his career to designing, engineering, and overseeing construction of non-motorized trails. Scott has seen a lot in more than 20 years of this work and is respected for that work around the state. It is not uncommon to find that Scott is involved in any given trail project (read more).
- Trail Maintenance: David Heyboer and Friends of the White Pine Trail
David Heyboer has been involved with the trail systems in West Michigan for more than 20 years and shows passion to expand and maintain the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park for current and future users (read more).
- Trail Volunteer: Ed Holovka
Ed Holovka is a tireless volunteer for the Musketawa Trail who has worked for the trail in many capacities for more than two decades. He recently stepped down as president of the Friends of the Musketawa Trail and continues in an ex-officio role.
“Ed led our friends group and brought on like-minded board members to help continue the passion for the Musketawa Trail. He is a stellar leader and model volunteer,” said Tim Nink, current president of the Friends of the Musketawa Trail (read more).
Trail Professional: Mark Mandenberg
An essential part of the DNR’s State Trails team, Mark Mandenberg was a trail friend, advocate and champion for more than 30 years. Mark passed away this June and is dearly missed by his wife Joni Starr, a host of family, friends, co-workers, and trail enthusiasts.
Mark worked for the DNR and served as the lead grants administrator for the federal Recreational Trails Program and the Recreational Improvement Fund, programs that provided startup funding to trail partners and funded design services for trail bridges and surfacing. Mark’s “Mandenberg Mix” is a new limestone aggregate mix developed to use on the state’s rail trail network. Mark played a huge role in developing Michigan as “The Trails State” (read more).
- Trail Maintenance: Kent County Parks
Kent County is at the hub of West Michigan’s regional network of non-motorized trails and, for more than 30 years, the Kent County Parks Department has been a leader in developing and maintaining these trails.
To maintain Kent County’s sprawling network of diverse trails, including nearly 50 miles of paved trails, the parks department relies on paid staff as well as hundreds of hours contributed by volunteers through the department’s Volunteer Services Program and partner organizations. From abandoned rail corridors in wide-open sun to heavily wooded areas with dense shade and leaves, management practices are adapted according to unique needs (read more).
- 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” (read more).
- 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 (read more).
- 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 read more).