North Country Trail in Fort Custer National Cemetery

by Kenny Wawsczyk, Michigan Regional Trail Coordinator, photos courtesy of Chief Noonday Chapter.

Across seven states the North Country Trail has the privilege to traverse through  a wide variety of properties, from large Forest Service land to small parcels in urban areas.

In Kalamazoo County there’s a unique property that the NCT is allowed to go through, the Fort Custer National Cemetery. During WW II Fort Custer served as a training ground for soldiers. Today, as you stand in what is now wetland, you can still see this history through the man made shapes of the land.

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Over two miles of Trail are found within the 770 acre parcel and the Chief Noonday Chapter has been working for the past few years to improve and replace the existing structures. So far the chapter has completed a total of 260 feet of puncheon, (not contiguous) as well as a 30 foot bridge that was built in 2015. 

With the bridge being built last year the chapter was able to focus on the puncheon this year. And with only approximately 40 feet left to go as well as a few touch-ups here and there it was definitely a successful year.

Ron and Jeff

Volunteers Ron and Jeff on the puncheon.

Volunteers from the chapter were happy to receive help from the Battle Creek Academy as well as the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy. These kids did a lot of hauling of gravel and lumber back into the sites as access to the area is limited. They also did more than just carry material as they got some experience building the structures too.

Michigan Youth Challenge Academy work on the Trail

Michigan Youth Challenge Academy Students work on the Trail

 

Battle Creek Academy Students work on the Trail

Battle Creek Academy Students work on the Trail

In October I too finally got the opportunity to help out. It never fails to amaze me how much time and effort our volunteers put into each and every project they are a part of.

So if you’re looking to hike a unique area I highly suggest heading to Augusta in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. There’s road side parking off Fort Custer Dr just north of M-96. (Find this on retail map MI-02.)

Then hike less than a half mile into the Fort Custer Recreation Area and just east of the newly built bridge you’ll enter an area that holds a lot of history and your feet will be dry thanks to the volunteers of the Chief Noonday Chapter.

And if you’re in the area, be sure to check out the special services that happen each Memorial Day Weekend in the Fort Custer National Cemetery.

Jeff and Mick Hawkins, volunteers with the Chief Noonday Chapter.

Jeff and Mick Hawkins, volunteers with the Chief Noonday Chapter.

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