SIDNEY - Montcalm Community College dedicated the Lena Meijer Heartland Trail Connector, which connects the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail to the college's Sidney campus, and unveiled the Robert E. Marston Pavilion during a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 5 in Sidney.....
“This project was the culmination of many years of visioning on our campus, and today that vision becomes a reality,” said MCC President Bob Ferrentino. “We are pleased to name the trail in honor of Lena Meijer for her many years of dedication to the community.”
"None of this would have been possible without the collaboration of many different partners," Ferrentino added.
The trail connector was the culmination of more than three years of collaborative work headed by MCC Board of Trustees Vice Chairperson Robert "Bob" Marston, and including MCC and the MCC Foundation with the Meijer Foundation, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District, the Road Commission for Montcalm County and the Friends of the Meijer Heartland Trail.
Earlier this year, MCC was awarded a grant by the Michigan Department of Transportation to fund the project, which consists of paved shoulders on both sides of Sidney Road from the Heartland Trail east to the Montcalm Area Career Center that transition to a separated pathway headed north around the Career Center and then east to MCC’s campus.
"The Meijer Foundation has been an angel for us. These types of grants require a match for funding, and the Meijer Foundation provided that match," Ferrentino said.
The Road Commission for Montcalm County recently completed construction of the trail connector in conjunction with a road reconstruction project, which was funded separately.
In addition, MACC Construction Trades program students partnered with the college to build a pavilion along the trail and adjacent to the college's greenhouse. The structure is equipped with picnic tables and is intended to provide a gathering place for a variety of uses.
"This project is an example of what we can accomplish when multiple agencies work together," Ferrentino said.
MAISD Superintendent Ron Simon said the trail extension will be a valuable resource in the classroom.
"It will provide opportunities for our students to learn more about sciences and natural resources, which happen to align with many classes we have at the Career Center," he said.
The pavilion was named in honor of Marston for his dedication to the trail connector project. Marston first was elected to the MCC Board of Trustees in 1991, serving for three years. He has served continuously on the board since being re-elected in 1997.
"Bob has been the champion of the project," Ferrentino said. "Today’s reality is a definite result of Bob's work and dedication."
"This was a total community project," Marston said as he thanked all of the partners for their work.
The Heartland Trail was the very first trail commitment by Fred Meijer, made in 1994.
Franz Mogdis, former executive director of the Montcalm Alliance, who was involved with the original Heartland Trail project as City Administrator of Stanton, said this project completes Fred Meijer's original vision for the trail.
"The original first section of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail was the Sidney to Stanton component," Mogdis said. "In that original plan was a connector to the college and a connector to the Central Montcalm schools complex."
The Lena Meijer Heartland Trail Connector provides walking and bicycle access to the MACC, the Community Dental Clinic, Montcalm Heritage Village, the Kenneth J. Lehman Nature Trails, the Stanton State Game Area, an outdoor classroom, an ongoing prairie restoration project and other recreational offerings on the college’s Sidney campus.
"We have a beautiful campus that offers a variety of recreational opportunities, and we are excited to add this trail connection to make these offerings more accessible to the community," Ferrentino said.