Posted on 21 May 2015.
By Judy Reed
The North Country Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails, is one step closer to passing through the Cedar Springs and Solon Township areas, and Cedar Springs is one step closer to becoming a National Trail Town.
Mark Weaver, of the National Park Service, and Superintendent of the North Country Trail, presented a memo of understanding to representatives from the two communities Tuesday evening, at the Community Building Development Team meeting. Mayor Jerry Hall received it for Cedar Springs and passed it on to City Manager Thad Taylor, and Supervisor Bob Ellick received it for Solon Township.
The North Country Trail stretches 4,600 miles, across seven states, from the New York/Vermont state line, to North Dakota. It is the longest of the 11 trails.
From left to right: Mark Weaver (Superintendent of the North Country Trail), Luke Jordan (intern with the National Park Service who has actually hiked the entire trail), Andrea Ketchmark (NCTA In Lowell), Charles Vannette (president West MI Chapter NCTA). Photo by Tom Noreen.
The Community Building Development Team began working with the North County Trail Association and National Park Service last summer on the possibility that it could come through the area, and has outlined possible routes.
Weaver explained that the National Park Service would be the arm responsible for planning the trail by doing the optimum location review. “We will inventory all the cool stuff in the area and start gathering information on the 30th,” he said, referring to the National Trail Celebration Day at Long Lake Park, on May 30, from noon to 4 p.m., where residents can give feedback on what cool and interesting features in the area that people should see. There will also be maps available. (More info on that at the end of story.)
After the celebration, they will begin to sift through the feedback they get, and figure out which sites would best be featured on the trail.
“We look at the scenic, cultural and historical qualities of an area, and try to connect that in as many ways as possible,” explained Weaver. “The North Country Trail is a collection of stories. There may be a lot of cool sites that have nothing to do with the people and their history, or their culture. We are telling the story of your community.”
He said they would then look at all the issues, come up with three alternate routes, and then decide on the best one. And just because certain cool features in the area might not make the cut, doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be accessed by a loop off the trail. “This could help your community identify other places for trails. Loops create of richness of experience,” he explained.
Weaver noted that the White Pine Trail would be considered, along with others in the area, and that they would not strong arm anyone into selling property. “We work with willing sellers and public lands,” he said. “The lines on the map are a guide; it sets the general direction for the way we are going. It sets the stage, rather than writes the script.” He also promised that at every milestone in the planning process, they would come back to the community. He hopes that they will have the plan completed this summer.
Also on hand was Luke Jordan, an intern with the National Park Service, who has walked all 4,600 miles of the trail; Andrea Ketchmark, of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) in Lowell, and Charles Vannette, President of the West Michigan Chapter of the NCTA. The NCTA is responsible for maintaining the trail, and designating the National Trail Towns. A Trail Town is a community through which the North Country Trail passes that supports hikers with services, promotes the Trail to its citizens and embraces the Trail as a resource to be protected and celebrated.
“We are definitely committed to Cedar Springs being a North Country Trail Town,” said Ketchmark. She later noted that the only way to get the trail done is by communities being involved, and that with the determination she saw in that room Tuesday night, it wouldn’t be a problem.
To give your input and to have some fun, come out to the National Trails Day Celebration at Long Lake Park in the pavilion, 13747 Krauskopf NE, Sparta (south off 17 Mile Road), from noon to 4 p.m. There will be hot dogs, ice cream, a petting zoo, games, music, popcorn, face painting, identification of medicinal plants, history of logging in Northern Kent County, a guided hike on the North Country Trail at 3 p.m., and a ham radio demonstration.