Trails signed and added to Loop It program to encourage people to get out and walking
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
As more spring-like weather sweeps into the area, Grayling area residents and visitors are encouraged to get out walking and utilizing trails marked as a labor of love by local Boy Scouts and other volunteers.
The paved cycling and walking trail, which stretches from the City of Grayling out to the Hartwick Pines State Park, was enhanced with mile markers and information kiosks last year. There is a mile marker every half mile with the exception of one that is at the pedestrian bridge located over I-75.
Noah Shambarger helped organize and lead the project as part of his final steps in earning the rank as an Eagle Scout.
He said the emphasis on this part of the process is enormous.
“It is the requirement that stands out among any other during a Scout’s entire career in a Boy Scout Troop,” Shambarger said. “This project helps Scouts learn the most important parts of leadership, respect, and community involvement.”
Wayne Koppa, chairman of the Crawford County Trails Committee, said signing the trail has been in the planning stages.
“It’s something that we’ve been trying to get done for several years, and it moved ahead slowly but surely,” he said.
Gail and Skip Madsen cut the poles and helped shape them for the mile markers. Susie and Tim Sweedine, who are members on the Crawford County Trails Committee, coordinated the coordinates for placement of the signage to ensure the accuracy.
Shambarger said he was pleased to head up the project.
“I am mostly grateful. This project made me realize my own strengths and shortcomings when it comes to leading people and all that comes with completing projects of any kind,” he said. “I have nothing but appreciation for the project and those who assisted me for helping me grow as a leader and a person.”
Shambarger said the trail system is another asset to help enhance the health of those who use it and to get people outside.
“While the bike path may not be the center of the Grayling community, it is very important to the people that have used it and the people that will use it. It is already used by walkers, runners, bikers, sports teams, and many other people,” he said. “Having the path look its best and in good condition makes it a great way to give back to residents of the town and show people that are not from here the opportunities in our town.”
Koppa said that Grayling has made great strides in the last 10 years to make the community more walkable.
“It’s so much better than it used to be if you want to get out and get some exercise,” he said. “It’s really a free form of exercise. You don’t go out and buy some equipment. If you can walk from where you live to get some errands done or to just go out and get some exercise, it really helps. When people walk to town and do not use a parking space, that makes parking available to other people.”
Koppa added that Joe Riddle, the transportation director for the Crawford AuSable School District, plows the trail during the winter for use by students and residents. This year, Riddle was able to make the trails better to travel.
“We found some money to salt the trail, so he started salting the trail to make it safer,” Koppa said.
The trail is now part of the community’s Loop It program, which encourages people to get and walk regularly to enhance their health. The initiative is spearheaded by the District Health Department #10, Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital, the Michigan State University Extension, and the City of Grayling.
Shambarger, who is a sophomore studying at Central Michigan University, has been a lifelong trail user.
“I have been using the trails ever since I can remember. When I was really little, my mom would bike the trails and I would be in tow behind her in a bike trailer, and when I was older I would walk them with her or bike them with my friends,” he said. “Even in my last years of high school I ran on them with the football team over the summer for conditioning. Those trails were a huge part of my time in Grayling growing up. It feels right to have given back to them in some way.”
Koppa commended Shambarger for his work on the project.
“He was a really busy kid,” Koppa said. “He put it together and he did an excellent job organizing this thing and getting them installed.”