Three ribbon cutting ceremonies are scheduled throughout Montcalm County on Oct. 15 to officially open the completed Fred Meijer Heartland Trail.
The first ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the trailhead in Riverdale, followed by the second ceremony at noon at the Vestaburg Depot and the third ceremony at 1 p.m. at the trailhead on Forest Street in Edmore.
A ribbon cutting ceremony in Greenville is still in the planning stages and is expected to take place next spring, said Sharon Sorensen, secretary for the Friends of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail.
The trail is owned, administered and maintained by the Friends of Fred Meijer Heartland Trail, which is a volunteer organization. Many of the volunteers have been with the organization since the beginning and they continue to contribute in many ways.
Volunteers complete most maintenance, such as mowing, removing fallen trees, patching holes in the pavement, picking up trash and putting up signs.
In 1988 an interested group of Montcalm residents received a letter from the West Michigan Regional Planning Commission that announced the abandonment of the railroad right-of-way, said Karen Stearns, treasurer of the Friends of Fred Meijer Heartland Trail who has been with the group since its beginning. The letter asked if the group would be interested in a linear park for the county.
After long discussions and meetings over the next two years, a plan was organized for a proposed trail from Edmore to Elwell, Stearns said.
Planning for the trail continued over the years, Stearns said, adding committees such as the Heartland Trail Advisory Committee and the first steering committee. Dave Nelson was named the group’s first president.
The group went through some twists and turns obtaining funding and purchasing the rail corridor in the mid-1990s. Thanks to a donation from the Meijer Foundation and dedication from the friends group, the project of acquiring and paving the trail continued through this summer.
“The Fred Meijer Heartland Trail had become a reality,” Stearns said. “Seventeen years later, the final paving will connect Alma to Greenville, a distance of 42 miles.”