Friends of the North Bank Trail are hosting a pancake breakfast benefit from 8-11 a.m. at Crockery Township Hall, 17431 112th Ave. in Nunica. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for ages 5-12, and free for ages 4 and younger.
Spring Lake Township Community Development Director Lukas Hill heads up the North Bank Trail project, which will eventually connect Spring Lake to Grand Rapids. He said proceeds from the breakfast will go toward the next planned trail segment — from 130th Avenue to 112th Avenue in downtown Nunica.
About 80 percent of the $1.6 million extension will be funded by grants, according to Hill, including money from the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
Hill said the continuation of the path east to Marne and eventually to Grand Rapids will happen in phases.
“I am not sure when it will be completed all the way to Grand Rapids,” he said. “Hopefully, in the next 5-10 years.”
The path runs primarily along the old Grand Trunk Railroad line. The opening 3.3-mile segment, from Fruitport Road to 130th Avenue, was built in 2011.
Easements are already in place for the segment from Nunica to Marne, Hill said.
“It's going to connect Grand Rapids and Grand Haven via a historic transportation corridor,” Hill said. “It's a safe, non-motorized separated trail. It's not one of those trails that's built alongside the road.”
Hill said the trail offers glimpses of nature that people wouldn't ordinarily get to see.
“I use the analogy that it's a narrow spine that runs through northern Ottawa County, but you get to see an awful lot of it from that spine,” he said. “You don't have to own it all to enjoy it. It's a great place to see a lot of different things in our landscape.”
Hill said he's excited about bringing a safe corridor for children to enjoy.
“It's all about the kids for me,” he said. “You get kids on these trails and they can cover some distance and be in a safe zone where they don't have to compete with cars. No section will be on the street at all. When it's totally separate on the old railroad grade, that's the best. You're out there away from driveways and vehicles. It's just a really cool space.”
Hill said he expects the pathway to provide a significant boost to the local economy, increase local property values, and provide a safe place to recreate and even commute.
“To top it off, the North Bank Trail will connect to the existing Musketawa Trail that connects to Muskegon, the Pioneer Trail that connects to Grand Rapids and the future Spoonville Trail that will connect to the Explorers Trail,” he said. “We can't wait to get it done.”