Fred Meijer’s trail contributions paved the way for many

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 3:12 pm on Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fred Meijer addresses those who gathered for a ribbon cutting for the completion second and third phases of Greenville’s Fred Meijer Flat River Trail in 2007. — File photo

GREENVILLE — Fred Meijer paved the way for an expansive recreational trail system throughout the area.
A couple of weeks prior to his death on Friday, Meijer, 91, was honored and recognized for his contribution to Rail-Trails.
Carolyn Kane said she had the privilege of presenting Meijer the Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions Award from the National Rails to Trails Conservancy before his passing. Kane spearheaded the development of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail and is currently doing the same for the Fred Meijer River Valley Trail.
“He was one of 25 people awarded the prestigious award at the National Rails to Trails 25th anniversary celebration.” Kane said.
She said the interpretation of the award was people who have gone above and beyond in the name of trails.
“I was so proud to accept this recognition for him on his behalf,” Kane said.
Meijer’s generosity has exceeded others, but Kane truly admired his courage as a leader and showing the way “by going first.” Kane said his courage to be one of the first to prepare the way and to show others the way has been the backbone of trail-building here in Michigan.
“(He) helped Michigan be No. 1 in trails across the nation,” Kane said. “Fred was truly a leader who did take his visions and make them reality.”
Kane said Meijer exceeded expectations when the 42-mile rail corridor from Greenville to Riverdale became available. A community group requested $5,000 to purchase and develop the trail, but Meijer decided to give more.
“Fred contributed $265,000 to secure the corridor for the Heartland Trail,” Kane said. “When the Clinton-Ionia-Shiawassee Trail corridor was available for sale, and it seemed like a hopeless endeavor, Fred again committed $1 million to secure the acquisition and continue the efforts to add 42 miles of trails to Mid-Michigan.”
Meijer was always concerned about the maintenance of the trails and who would take care of them, Kane said. Meijer was the first person in the United States to provide a $3 million endowment through the Grand Rapids Community Foundation to maintain the 125-mile corridor from Owosso to Alma.
“His personal commitment, courage and leadership will assuredly be missed” Kane said.
Greenville Mayor Ken Snow said Meijer was a great man who will truly be missed.
“(Meijer) loved Greenville and Greenville loved him,” Snow said.
”He never forgot about Greenville.”
Meijer, who was born in Greenville on Dec. 7, 1919, always gave back to his roots, Snow said.
“Because the trail is named after him, his memory will live on,” Snow said.

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