Experience Kent County Parks and Michigan Trails

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Kate Meyer, Kent County Parks Foundation

By Nancy Bedell, March 4, 2017

River City Wild Ones programs this year began with the February meeting, a introduction to lesser known Kent County Parks by Kate Meyer, Executive Director of the Kent County Parks Foundation, and Jim Bradley, Vice President of West Michigan Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, highlighting history and unusual sections of the North Country Trail.

Kent County Parks Foundation supports the parks with fundraising for extra projects and recruiting volunteers for planting and trail maintenance. Our county has 38 parks, 100 miles of trails on 7,000 acres. We pay only $10 per person per year for our parks, thus additional funding and volunteer help are needed for maintenance. There are hiking trails, biking areas, even an equestrian trail in the system. Lepard Preserve in Caledonia offers a highly diverse habitat of native plants of interest to our members.

Martha (Marty) McCleery, River City Wild Ones

RCWO volunteers have helped plant natives for several years in Townsend Park and our volunteers have assisted at the Discover Millennium Park event. RCWO member Marty MacCleery continues to play a leadership role at the Millennium Park event, encouraging children to connect with nature. For further information on this years? event, Discover Millennium Park?s Hansen Nature Trail, May 20, 10 am? 2pm, look online at: kentcountryparks.org under ?Calendar of Events?.

North Country Trail is a National Park Service project crossing 4,600 miles in the northern US from the Adirondack Mountains in New York to the plains of North Dakota. Michigan has the longest section of the trail across both peninsulas through federal, state lands and private land easements and public roads. Kent County is the most populous area on the trail with 620,000 population and thus has miles of unfinished trail. Hikers use public roads for those stretches. The trail is marked with signs indicated by a bright blue background chevron with a star in the middle and by bright blue blazes on trees.

Jim Bradley, North Country Trail Association

Jim Bradley works as a volunteer with the North Country Trail Association, a non-profit established to assist the trail. He helps volunteers who improve and maintain trails in Kent County and arranges easements to replace public road sections of the trail.

On line one can view the trail and zoom in and out at: https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/maps/. Portions of the trail located on public roads are indicated by red dashes.

RCWO has visited locations that are either on or next to the trail in past years: Loda Lake National Wildflower Sanctuary, Seidman Park, and last year the Maher Audubon Sanctuary and Dolan Nature Preserve on the Coldwater River. That area has an unusually high biodiversity score.

Jim Bradley encouraged attendees not to overlook unusual sites along the trail: series of marshes north of Croton Dam in Newaygo County, accessible from a rest area parking lot along M-37. Another on the Flat River north of Lowell, after crossing the Flat River park near the Boy Scout shelter and to the right of the gate walk through the woods. From there one can walk all the way to Fallasburg Park.