Trail system puts a little bit of country in the city

October 20, 2008
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Fred Meijer, pictured on a tour with Peter Secchia, made an appearance last Monday to see the progress of the Fred Meijer Millennium Trail Network, a portion of Millennium Park. Meijer was the primary donor for the 20-mile trail that is in the second of its three-year plan.

The project totals just under $10 million, with $1.1 million being provided by Kent County. The sum includes land acquisition as well as trail development.

“This phase creates an alternate route for Kent Trails, and then next year we rebuild Kent Trails,” said Roger Sabine, director of Kent County Parks Department. “This is quite different than the recreation portion and what people are thinking is Millennium. This will bring in a whole different type of user.”

The project adds 114 acres to Millennium Park. When combined with neighboring Johnson Park, John Ball Park and the future City Park at the Butterworth property, the acreage totals 1,865 — larger than New York City’s Central Park. Paths are made for non-motorized vehicles; there will be both 12-foot-wide paved trails and 6-foot-wide nature trails with natural surfacing.

The new trail network, Meijer said, will be a place for children and families to enjoy nature.

“This gives people a chance to get out in the open in a safe atmosphere,” said Meijer. “I’ve believed in trails for years. If you don’t get them when they’re available, then they’re gone forever. A (trail) went through my wife’s farm and she used to pick berries and flowers, and roam around there. Well, that trail wasn’t saved, and there’s no evidence of the trail anymore.”

Meijer has always been a strong advocate of the outdoors. As a boy, he carried a hatchet on his hip when he and his friends would trek through the outdoors.

“We thought we were real pioneers,” he said with a smile.

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