On Sunday August 2, a storm ripped through the small town of Glen Arbor and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore that left massive destruction in its path. As a result, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail was completely closed down with trees, branches, and storm debris covering the pathway. In particular, along the section of trail between Glen Arbor and Glen Haven, especially near Glen Arbor, the devastation of the forest was profound. For years to come, visitors will see trail scenery completely transformed by the storm – down trees, and once closed canopies now gaping with holes the size of football fields.
Thanks to the work of volunteers led by the Friends of Sleeping Bear and the strong partnership of the National Park Service, the community was able to quickly bring the Heritage Trail back to life. Over the past two weeks, hundreds of volunteers spent thousands of dollars and hours clearing the trail. After the heavy lifting of opening the trail and making it passable, volunteers found there is still much work to be done – the trail and signage were damaged during the storm and trees and debris continue to fall. To support these efforts, the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation, based in Muncie, Indiana, and with long-time ties to the region has made a first of its kind grant from the Foundation, providing $10,000 to TART Trails to help support storm related clean-up efforts along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The Foundation, which helped fund the development of the trail, is supporting volunteer efforts to ensure the trail’s safe and scenic recovery.
“This was important to the Foundation. We do not do emergency grants, but the size and scope of this storm was exceptional,” said Chuck Ball, associate executive director of the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation. “TART and its partners are an important part of the beauty and character of Leelanau. Adding extra cleanup support for the Heritage Trail to a recently approved general grant for trail planning stretched our overall grant funding, but it was for a great cause.”
Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich said, “The donation of the Ball Foundation to re-open the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail after the devastating storm epitomizes the way this community has pulled together and supported one another through this difficult time. We are grateful for their contribution toward giving this trail back to the people who love it.”
Kerry Kelly, Chairman of the Board for the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes offered his praise commenting, “The community response to clearing the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail after the August 2 storm was amazing. The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes organized volunteers to work with the National Park Service Tree Crew to clear the trail from down trees and to make it safe for our visitors to ride. We had over 100 volunteers working over 700 hours in the past two weeks. This generous donation from the Ball Foundation supports the efforts by our volunteers. It really was a team effort. Together we made rapid progress to get the trail open and safe!”
In total 138 volunteers (85 of them brand-new) worked 1,053 hours over the course of 6 days — running chainsaws, loppers & hand-saws and hauling brush — with no accidents/incidents. Friends of Sleeping Bear Ambassadors continue to monitor the trail and remove weakened trees that continue to fall.