When the Penn Central Corp. abandoned the rail line some people thought a recreational trail would be a good idea. The Friends of the Kal-Haven Trail was organized in 1984 and, through the efforts of individuals like Rick Oberle, Al Cassada, Ron Stolk, and Rev. Judy Downing, the Kal-Haven Trail became a reality.
Their efforts drew the support of former office holders like South Haven mayor Betty Davis, state representative Mary Brown and state senator Stephen Monsma.Much of the funding came from the Michigan Land Trust Fund, but fund raising efforts by the Friends of the Kal-Haven Trail and user fees provide for operation and maintenance of the trail.
The exaggerated fears, and legitimate concerns, of property owners led to a court challenge to the trail's opening. After a disappointing delay, a settlement was reached.
Through a cooperative effort of the DNR Parks Division and the Friends of the Kal-Haven Trail (supplemented by the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps, Michigan Youth Corps and other volunteers) an abandoned rail bed became a recreational link between Kalamazoo and South Haven.
After going through a process similar to Michigan's entry into the Union, the Kal-Haven Trail opened to the public August 15, 1989.
|THE EVOLVING TRAIL|
The covered bridge was built with the labor of the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps and materials donated by Robert Nichols. The bridge is dedicated to the memory of his father, Donald F. Nichols.
The trail has been extended west with the trailhead being moved from Blue Star Highway to an area off of Bailey Avenue. There is also a movement underway to connect the trail to downtown Kalamazoo, and from there to other trails. Current plans are to complete a 4.5 mile section between US-131 and the corner of Kalamazoo and North Westnedge Avenues (running basically parallel to Ravine Road) during spring of 2006. (Remember when it was summer of 2003?) A tunnel under US-131 will link the new section with the existing trail near the eastern trailhead at 10th Street.
User fees have been reinstated and Van Buren County will assume control and maintenance responsibilities of the existing trail.
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© John C. Waugh