By CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Last Thursday communities, businesses, and non-profit organizations around the world observed the 40th annual Earth Day Celebration. Every year Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 and is designed to raise awareness and appreciation of the environment.
Locally, in a match made in heaven, the Friends of the White Pine Trail (“Friends”) joined forces with Comcast, one of the nation’s leading providers of entertainment, information and communication products, and services.
In 2001 Comcast instituted a “Comcast Cares Day” community service program in Michigan and across the country. Nationwide, more than 55,000 Comcast volunteers participated in this annual day of service that may well be one of the largest single days of corporate volunteer efforts in the country.
Early in 2009 Comcast approached Michigan State Senator Mark Jansen with a request for a suitable project or organization in West Michigan that would benefit from a large volunteer work force. Senator Jansen recommended the “Friends” because, as a volunteer non-profit organization, they had assumed the responsibility of maintaining the State’s longest linear park – to the benefit of so many people and communities – at little or no cost to the Michigan DNR.
“For the second year in a row, Earth Day was a Comcastic Day for the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (FMWPT),” said Friends Chairman Dave Heyboer, who added, “We were able to get more done in one day than the “Friends” volunteers would normally be able to accomplish in a whole year of our trail work days.” Comcast dares to dream big and last Thursday one hundred and five blue-shirted Comcast employees showed up and volunteered to perform a laundry list of much needed maintenance and beautification chores along the FMWPT. “From the border of Rockford at Childsdale southward to North Park Avenue in Comstock Park, the trail was engulfed with an amazing group of highly skilled volunteers who had brought a lot of their own tools, had a take-charge leadership mentality and were gung-ho about getting things done, “ said Heyboer.
Working out of a Plainfield Township provided staging area, located in the lower level of the Township’s Office on Belmont Rd., the amazing Comcast volunteers preformed such tasks as cutting back brush alongside the trail, trash pick-up, fallen tree removal, and the clearing of eroded dirt that had washed across the trail during heavy spring rains. At the new picnic table near House St., they hauled away tons of brush so the view from the table overlooking the Rogue River is unobstructed and breathtaking. Heyboer told us, “They built a fence—a lot of fence! Adding to a section that Comcast built last year, they constructed a whopping 400 ft. of additional split rail fence that will prevent erosion on the steep sides of the trail near the Belmont staging area. In just over an hours time the Comcast crew constructed fencing that is functional as well as visually impressive.”
That afternoon and early evening, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the “Comcast Cares Earth Day Project” was a voluntary effort of pure selflessness. Mind you, these Comcast employees were not present that afternoon because they had to be. They had already put in a full day’s work on the job in the company’s West Michigan service area and were there that afternoon on their own time because they wanted to make a difference in the greater Grand Rapids area. Comcast employees truly do care.
As is Comcast’s practice, a donation of an undisclosed amount was made to the “Friends” that was based on the number of volunteers who participated that day. Present that afternoon were Mary Beth Halprin, Vice President of Public Relations and Community Affairs for Comcast, who received a proclamation of appreciation from Gov. Granholm along with a likewise Michigan State Legislature resolution of appreciation from State Senator Mark Jansen, who was also present. Also on hand was Pete McGregor Cannon Township Supervisor, an avid trail user who had recently lost 30 pounds to be slim and trim for his “run” for Tom Pierce’s 73rd District, soon to be vacated, seat in the Michigan State House of Representatives. McGregor is looking forward to a day in the future when the Cannon Township trail system will directly connect to the FMWPT.
Heyboer and the “Friends” are already planning for another Comcastic Day on the FMWPT on Earth Day next year. Meanwhile, enjoy a trail that connects people and communities from Grand Rapids to Cadillac and when you see a blue-shirted Comcast employee say, “Thanks.”