Major Trail Incidents

Storm of 2010

Memorial Day 2010 Storm


On Memorial Day 2010 the area between Belmont and Rockford was the recipient of a major storm that dumped and estimated 8 inches of rain in less than an hour between Belmont Ave and House Street.  This storm caused a lot of damage in the area including the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail.


Over the years several things happened to contribute to a major washout issue that caused significant damage to the trail.


At some point; the culvert that was placed under the trail by the railroad many, many years ago was rendered non-functional.  This was in the area close to where the two park benches were.  The excessive amount of rain came down the hills from above and flowed down and over the trail.  The extreme flow of water washed out the bank and approximately 1/3 of asphalt of the trail with nearly a 20 foot drop at the broken off edge of the asphalt


In addition south about 1000 feet of the benches water running down the private drives and the hills caused the west side of the trail’s tall bank to slough off and cover the trail with nearly 3 feet of dirt / mud which created a dam across the trail.  This dam caused all the water between the dam and the benches area to flow toward the benches and then down the east side of the trail contributing to an already bad washout situation.


Also approximately 500 feet north of the benches was a culvert under the trail which had been clogged by brush and leaves.  The massive amount of water that came down the hills from above filled the ravine above this culvert and then ran across the trail; then eroding the dirt on the other side of trail to the extent that the pavement was undercut and some of the pavement fell away.


This storm also took out the hill / pavement on House Street downstream from the trail!


Attempts were made to close the trail to normal traffic, unfortunately the trail users would not obey the barricades and the barricades were damaged by the users.


The state decided to hire an engineering firm to come up with a plan to fix the damage!  This took a period of time to produce along with having several ground water monitoring wells that were drilled in the trail.


The engineers came up with a very extensive plan to repair the damage and to prevent further damage.  The cost of this work was going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars!  Then came the questions on how are the costs of repairs going to be covered as the state has no money!


Then came a meeting at the Rockford City Hall with representatives from MDNR Parks and Recreation, City of Rockford, the “Friends”, Michigan Department of Management & Budget, Kent County Road Commission, Plainfield Township, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the engineering firms that had been hired.  Considerable discussion ensued with very expensive proposals that could mean a lengthy trail closure either due to the work being done or the lack of funds preventing repairs.


After patiently waiting / listening through all the discussions the engineer from Kent County Road Commission said “I can fix this mess in approximately 3 days and for less than $25,000!  Of course the engineers did not agree with his offer, and there were several questions.  Soon it was determined that the Kent County Road Commission Engineer had a good stop-gap plan to at least fill the holes and prevent further damage and secure the main sewer line from Rockford that was within a few feet of being compromised which would have dumped raw sewage into the Rogue River.  There would still be some culvert work that would need to be done, and that could be done after the holes had been filled.


It took some time for the various parties to come to an agreement as to who was going to pay for the fix, we waited for several days to get that settled and then the county trucks started to roll bringing in some great clay-loam material that did a good job of filling in the huge holes.


The trail was officially re-opened in time for the 4th of July weekend!


At our 3rd “Comcast Cares” work-day we had a number of the Comcast folks along with one of our excellent members go to the northernmost wash out location and built a chain-link fence screen to prevent the culvert that got plugged from being plugged again.  Thanks to the Comcast folks!


After the trail was stabilized we then had a lot of discussions regarding the long term fix to prevent more damage if we should have another major storm.  The “Friends” kept after the DNR folks to get the culverts re-established before we had another major problem.  Again there was considerable posturing regarding who was going to pay for this needed work. 


Again the Kent County Road Commission came through with an offer to install the needed culvert and some ditch re-establishment at an exceptionally low cost.  Finally we got that project done in 2 days with no trail closure.


Now the remaining problem was all the damage done by the original storm and the damage by the great number of very heavy dump trucks bringing in fill for the holes.  We needed several areas of asphalt replaced or repaired!  And again here comes the Kent County Road Commission to the rescue with a very reasonable cost to do the necessary asphalt work.


As of June 21, 2011 the trail is mostly back to a normal condition. 


Thanks; to all that have worked to make this trail disruption a “hopefully” thing of the past.


A special thanks to the Kent County Road Commission and all their great employees for the hard and in some cases dangerous work to fix our trail.


And a very special thanks to Kent County Road Commission engineer Tom Byle as he has been our hero making so much happen in a timely fashion at a reasonable price!


This has been a long process and the above narrative does not cover all that happened during this mess, it is the best I can do within a reasonable amount of time and space!


David Heyboer - Chairman