By Liam Tiernan
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter
ST. JOHNS — Just south of downtown St. Johns, a somewhat-dilapidated concrete trail draws the line of where downtown ends and warehouses begin.
The Fred Meijer Clinton-Ionia-Shiawassee Trail runs from Owosso, through St. Johns, and finally turns into the Fred Meijer Grand River Trail, which proceeds throughout the western part of the state. This trail follows a mostly retired railroad track that leads horizontally across the state.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the trail was purchased in 2007 with the help of the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.
The Clinton County portion of the trail runs on the north side of downtown St. Johns. This portion of the trail is woefully undermanaged. Graffiti is sprayed on the side of the abandoned silos and concrete walls that line the St. Johns portion of the trail. Potholes and cracks in the blacktop become more frequent the farther the trail runs into town.
“The trail is extremely hard to manage in its entirety,” said Elizabeth Striano,
Director of Communications and Marketing at trailsandrails.org. “The trail is 41.3 miles long and runs across three counties. It’s not easy or cheap to send teams out to different parts of the trails for maintenance on a regular basis.”
Initially funds for maintenance of the trail came from a donation of $3 million by the Meijer foundation, according to the Mid-west Michigan Trail Authority. However, this donation was made in 2005 and since it has been harder and harder to keep the whole trail maintained.
Currently maintenance responsibilities rest with the authority.
“The Clinton County section of the trail is less visited than other locations on the trail,” said Nancy Krupiarz of Michigan Trails and Greenways. “The Owosso trailhead and the Ionia trailhead both see far more visitors and probably get funding to match.
“It’s also interesting that the Clinton County board of commissioners doesn’t elect board members for the Mid-west Michigan Trail Authority, while Ionia County and Shiawassee County boards elect three apiece.”
Brandon March of the Mid-west Michigan Trail Authority states that the elected board members are from the counties where the trail and decisions concerning it would make the most impact.
Cistrail.org, an organization that promotes clean and accessible trailheads for the Clinton-Ionia-Shiawassee Trail, says that the best way to keep the trail presentable is for the residents to step up.
“Picking up one piece of litter or reporting suspicious looking activity on the trail can help keep the trail looking pristine and welcoming,” said representative Mike Pulinski from cistrail.org “And of course, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.”