by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Massive flows of water from Memorial Day’s storms caused extensive damage to the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail (FMWPT) at approximately the six-mile marker just north of Belmont. Sadly, the five-inch deluge of rainfall occurred at the start of the busy summer recreational season on the state’s longest linear park, the FMWPT.
Huge volumes of water trapped behind trail embankments on the FMWPT’s west side over flowed the trail’s surface and flowed downward in a torrent to the Rogue River hundreds of feet below. In one of the prettiest and scenic segments of the FMWPT, a hillside gave way and the ensuing mudslide completely engulfed the trail. A short distance away to the north, at three separate locations, the roaring waters tore away sections of the trail and created huge gorges as it thundered to the river below.
Wednesday, two days after the storm, we met trailside at the damaged area with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s (DNRE) Larry Solce. Solce is the park manager of Mitchell State Park in Cadillac, who also has the added responsibility of overseeing the FMWPT. Solce was with another DNRE staffer who was clearing the mudslide from the trail with a heavy piece of equipment. It was necessary to clear the trail so the DNRE district planner and engineers could access and assess the damaged segments the following day. Solce told us that what would follow would be a bidding process before reconstruction and repairs could be made. The affected section of the trail, in all probability, would be closed for many months.
The damaged section of the FMWPT will be closed to trail users during reconstruction. Barricades will be placed on the trail at the Belmont staging area on the south and at House Street to the north. Kent County Sheriff’s yellow taping is already temporarily in place.
Solce stressed, “Trail users should respect the barricades, especially at this time! Sections of trail in the affected areas will continue to fall away because of the saturated ground and instability of the soil below the trail. To say it is unsafe would be an understatement. The undercut and damaged trail is extremely dangerous.”
Indeed, from our vantage point this day, one could fall and plunge hundreds of feet down a gorge to the Rogue River below.
Unfortunately, the main staging area at the southern end of the FMWPT is off Belmont Road in Belmont. It will be of little use to trail users wanting to head north in the coming months and most likely becoming a staging area for construction equipment and workers. A better alternative staging area for trail users wanting to trek north would be the welcoming City of Rockford.
So enjoy this beautiful state treasure—just begin and end your trip in Rockford.