by Tom Noreen
Cedar Springs has been a cross roads for over a 125 years. The first major cross road was formed when the Toledo, Saginaw and Muskegon Railroad crossed the Grand Rapids and Indiana rail line near where South Street dead ends into the White Pine Trail. While M57 never crossed through Cedar Springs, it ended at what is now Northland Drive and 14 Mile. Travelers heading west would then jog north to M46 and follow it west to Muskegon. The two roads roughly follow the course of the old TS&M.
A new cross road is being proposed for Cedar Springs—an intersection of the White Pine Trail and the North Country Trail. The NCT stretches from eastern New York for over 4,600 miles to central North Dakota. This trail is the longest of the National Scenic Trails overseen by the National Park Service, over twice that of the Appalachian Trail. It is also the only major east-west trail. This trail enters Michigan in the southeast corner and exits it in the western UP.
Jeff McCusker from the National Park Service, Andrea Ketchmark and Matt Robatham from the North Country Trail Association, Annamarie Bauer from the Department of Natural Resources, and Chuck Vannette and Chuck Hayden from the West Michigan Chapter of the NCT met with representatives from the City of Cedar Springs, Nelson and Solon Townships, Chamber of Commerce, Parks and Recreation, Community Building Development Team, area businesses and interested citizens on the future of the trail in our area.
Kurt Mabie opened the meeting and Amanda Gerhardt and Carolee Cole did an amazing job of presenting our thoughts about why Cedar Springs would make a great location for the trail to cross the White Pine Trail and head west towards the Rogue River State Game Area where it begins its northward trek to the bridge.
Jeff briefed on the Optimum Location Review process that is used to determine the final trace of the trail. Planning requirements include places to camp about every ten miles, parking areas every five miles, staying off roads and creating a 200 ft wide buffer on each side of the trail creating a protected walkway and a high quality experience for walkers.
At the conclusion of his briefing some initial steps were made to begin an OLR for this area to determine the best route from east of Rockford then north and west towards the State Game Area.
Carolee Cole summed it up when she said, “Jeff and his crew were great listeners and taught us how to move forward as well as inviting us to participate with them in determining the optimum location for the North Country Trail in the Cedar Springs area. We really appreciated the spirit they brought to the table and their willingness to work with us for an extended time in sharing what they are hoping for and considering our insights.”