By Judy Reed
The dream of the city of Cedar Springs for a staging area along the White Pine Trail came one step closer last week with the donation of a piece of property to build it on.
Gary and Joanne Gust, of Cedar springs, donated a parcel of property at the end of Maple Street, between Second Street and the White Pine Trail.
The city is grateful for the donation. “This donation will allow the city to construct a parking lot and restrooms for trail users,” explained City Manager Christine Burns.
On the property is an old freight depot used by the GR&I railroad, which will need to be torn down. But there is another railroad connection to this property. Gary’s mother, Clara Gust, is the daughter of George Sillaway, the last railroad station agent in Cedar Springs. George’s post was at the TS&M station, near where the recently closed Speedway sits on Northland Drive, next to Morley Park. He retired in May 1936, just before the last train rolled through Cedar Springs.
In exchange for the property, the Gust family asked that a memorial of some kind, such as a gazebo, be erected on the property to honor Clara Gust. The city is planning a dedication, in honor of Mrs. Gust, but has not yet set a date.
Two years ago the city secured a lease with the Department of Natural Resources for the parcel at Maple and the trail. The city currently has about $57,000 put aside for the staging area and has applied for a matching grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund. City officials are excited about the possibilities the grant would offer. The planned restrooms, picnic area, and paved parking area might well entice users to explore what else the city has to offer. If the grant is denied, the $57,000 would only fund a gravel area for trail users. “One way or another we’ll have a staging area, but it might not be elaborate,” noted Burns.
The staging area would complement plans for what is shaping up to be the “new” center of Cedar Springs. In the early days of the town, the area was busy with the railroad, water tower, festival days, games, and other activities. It was also the first area settled in Cedar Springs, and still has one of the original flowing wells, which the city hopes to turn into a fountain. Other plans include a new library, an ampitheatre, skate park, picnic area, restrooms, the staging area with parking, and a walking trail along Cedar Creek.