by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Last Tuesday afternoon found us at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to attend a visitation and pay our respects to a man we had personally come to know as one without equal – Fred Meijer. We were not there as reporters to cover Fred’s passing but rather as two of thousands, that afternoon and evening, who felt compelled to gather and reminisce with one another and Meijer family members about the life and times of Fred and the role he played in all of our lives. The “six degrees of separation” theory refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth. That theory did not apply to Fred Meijer. In Fred’s case, it was more like one degree of separation. Is there a person in West Michigan that does not have a Fred story to tell? Certainly everyone present last Tuesday could attest to that. So much for computer-age social networks, Fred accomplished much the same with countless thousands of peoples in good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. Fred was a man of the people who had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. If you crossed paths with him, he was always graciously approachable. In conversation, you became his new friend. He learned your name, what you did for a living, and how you felt about things in general. Both parties were enriched by the encounter and parted ways having learned something new and possibly, at the same time, enjoying a good laugh, oftentimes at Fred’s expense. Is there another billionaire anywhere who has freely made himself available to his fellow man more than Fred Meijer? We think not. Your reporters, the Hills, had the good fortune to meet Fred numerous times in covering events where he was present. Sometimes, also, it was just happenstance. It could have been at Meijer Gardens itself, where we are members, or it could have been at one of the local Meijer stores while we were shopping. Two occasions that stand out in our minds occurred while we were covering local events for the Squire where Fred was the focal point. On one in 2008, Fred was the guest of honor at a […]
Fred Meijer White Pine Trail
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL This New Year’s Day morning, plan on joining hundreds of Fred Meijer White Pine Trail users as they step into 2011 for a brisk four-mile walk. Hosted by the Friends of the White Pine Trail, this popular New Year’s Day tradition will mark its 10th year. The annual Resolution Walk is not just for Friends members but rather is open to everyone of all ages along with their four-footed friends as well. Bring the whole family and join with the Friends as they celebrate the many Trail improvements of the past year. One accomplishment that stands out is the paving of the Trail between Cadillac and LeRoy to the south, a distance of 8.6 miles. Funding for the project came from the Fred Meijer Foundation and a Federal High Priority Transportation Enhancement Grant. This was another major milestone in the Friends’ goal to have the Trail entirely paved from Grand Rapids to Cadillac. Another achievement was the installation trailside of a beautiful new covered picnic table located south of Cedar Springs between Indian Lakes Road and 16 Mile Road. Funding for this table and one previously installed just south of Rockford was generously provided by donations from Wolverine World Wide. As in past years, weather will be no obstacle to the hearty outdoor enthusiasts who have yearly stepped off in fellowship with nature and one another. Participants are asked to assemble at the Rotary Pavilion in downtown Rockford prior to the 10:00 a.m. start of the leisurely, noncompetitive round-trip walk from Rockford north to 12 Mile Road and back. As usual the Friends, in the cozy confines of the heated Pavilion, will provide refreshments. Look forward to hot coffee and cocoa along with cookies. Also, for the third year in a row, “Coney Girl” Jennifer Idema will be on hand serving up great hot dogs and brats with all the trimmings—all provided compliments of the Friends (donations gratefully accepted). Plan on stepping into 2011 on the right foot in anticipation of better things ahead for Michigan.
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 […]
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment recently announced that a three-mile section of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail in Kent County is closed due to mud slides and washouts from the recent storms. The closed area extends from Belmont Avenue east of Belmont to House Street, which is southwest of the City of Rockford in Plainfield Township. The 92-mile trail extends from Grand Rapids to Cadillac and at this time there is no alternate route on the linear state park trail. All visitors, including mountain bikers, pedestrians and rollerbladers are asked to plan their routes accordingly to avoid this section of the trail. This segment of the trail will remain closed until repairs are complete. Updates and additional information can be obtained by contacting the Mitchell State Park and White Pine Trail Supervisor Larry Solce at (231) 775-7911.