Anne Frank once said, “How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Michigan rail-trail champions Carolyn Kane and Fred Meijer have clearly taken those words to heart.
Both Kane and Meijer were recently recognized by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) as individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the rail-trail movement in the past quarter century.
Carolyn Kane of Vestaburg began her work with trails in Michigan in 1993 upon her retirement by joining the Friends of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trails. What began as just an opportunity to give back to her community turned into a second career for Kane. She went on to spearhead the acquisition and development of 37.5 miles of rail-trail from Ionia to Greenville, raising $2.3 million in the process.
“It is truly an honor for me to be a Rail-Trail Champion and a representative of Michigan,” says Kane. “Through partnerships, from the local level to the national level, many, many people have worked very hard and collaborated to bring about the success in Michigan today. And through the ongoing financial support of the Fred Meijer Foundation, we were able to build old and new bridges, continue with the preservation of rail corridors and build safe places for families to recreate together.”
Fred Meijer was honored for his generosity and vision in establishing the Fred Meijer network of trails. Thanks to the philanthropy and vision of Fred and his wife Lena, millions of Americans now have the opportunity to enjoy Michigan’s trail system. He is also the creator of the first endowment fund in Michigan for the maintenance of trails.
“It is because of good partners like Carolyn and Fred that Michigan is a leader in rails-to-trails with over 2,400 miles of trails,” said Jim Radabaugh, the section manager of the Recreation and Trails section at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “These corridors provide vital transportation and recreation links for millions of Michigan residents and tens of thousands of visitors every year.”
Each Rail-Trail Champion was awarded $1,000 grant to be given to a non-profit or volunteer trail organization in his or her honor. Kane and Meijer both selected the Fred Meijer Mid-West Michigan Rail Trail Endowment Fund. This grant will contribute to the endowment fund’s mission of maintaining the 125-mile corridor in perpetuity. The earning from the pass-through grants will assist in trail maintenance forever through this endowment fund.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 150,000 members and supporters, is the nation’s largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.railstotrails.org.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, accessible use and enjoyment of the State’s natural resources for current and future generations. For more information visit www.michigan.gov/dnr.