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OUR "STRING OF PEARLS"  

Chief Noonday’s Interpretive Project all began back in 1999 when Tom Garnett, then Chief Noonday's president, had the opportunity to attend the National Scenic and Historic Trails Conference in Casper, Wyoming.

Tom relates that during the conference Karen Wade, newly appointed Regional Director of the Intermountain Region, National Park Service, spoke about the national trail system being “strings of pearls.”  She explained that our beautiful scenic and historical trails are available to hike on, and for that alone they are a great recreation resource.  However, she said each one has its own unique characteristics, and when a hiker takes the time to explore the trail, the land it passes through and the nature found along the way, then the trail really becomes an exciting place to visit in all seasons of the year — a string of pearls, the string being the trail and the pearls being the discoveries along the path.

Click on the brochure image (right) to access a .pdf file of the brochure for the Norris Rd-to-McKibben Rd section, which you can download and print on your home computer.

It was that talk that stimulated the idea to develop a “guide for hikers” on the NCNST and especially our section of it to encourage greater use by local individuals and groups of our own “string of pearls.”

Tom introduced the idea at a Chapter meeting, and that was when he, Barb VanDyken, Sheryl Drenth, LaVerne BeBeau, and Jerry Pattok began to make it happen.

The idea expanded to include an educational project which would provide hikers with all sorts of information about the areas through which they were hiking, and the pilot project for the Interpretive Project was to thoroughly study the Norris Road tract and develop a guide hikers to use.  LaVerne BeBeau applied his love of history to gathering the stories of Chief Noonday, Yankee Bill Lewis and the Slater Mission Charlie Krammin contributed to locating historical sites.  Barb VanDyken applied her love and knowledge of wild flowers to catalog the flora along the trail.  Jerry Pattok, ever the science teacher, studied and interpreted the varying geology of the area.  Sheryl Drenth applied her artistic expertise to recording the flora and fauna.  Larry Pio, the hiker, joined the group to catalog the GPS coordinates of all the sites which were identified. 

When the information was finally gathered, it was time to decide what to do with it to make it available to the hiking public.  About that time, Larry Hawkins and Dave Cornell were negotiating with the administration of the Kellogg Biologic Station looking to expand our involvement on their properties.  It became clear that they were looking for us to expand our involvement in other ways, namely to become an educational resource for visitors to KBS.  The Interpretive Project was a natural fit.  Simultaneously with all of this, Mick Hawkins was dramatically expanding the role of our Chapter Web site, making it the staple for getting information out to not only our membership, but to those utilizing the trail through Barry, Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties.  It was again, a natural fit to make the Web site the vehicle for getting the Interpretive Project out to our public. 

With the decision to use the Web site, the eventual involvement of the KBS project, it became clear that this project posed endless opportunities.  Matt Rowbotham had teased us with the idea of providing downloadable audio tracks that people could put on their iPods or MP3 players as well as expanding our Web site's map resources and involving Google Maps to help people find our trail sites.  The potential for programs about Fort Custer, Battle Creek and beyond were within our reach. 

At this point we recruited Tom Garnett with his vast experience in public relations and marketing to help us get the Interpretive Project to the people.  Enlisting the graphic artistry of his wife, Judy, Tom produced the brochure covering the Trail from Norris Road to McKibben Road -- the first of what we hope will eventually become a series covering Chief Noonday's entire three-county section of the Trail.

That is where we are today.  We have the benefits of the research of the late LaVerne BeBeau, the natural history and nature study of the Norris Road tract from Jerry Pattok and Barb VanDyken, and the art of Sheryl Drenth as a beginning, and the enormous pool of talent within our Chapter membership to make this program a jewel to share with the entire North Country Trail Association to develop similar projects all along the trail. 

Larry Hawkins


 


 

Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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