In Michigan, Hart-Montague Trail to be Renamed for Bill Fields, Farmer and Rail-Trail Champion

Posted 05/20/13 by Rhonda Romano in America's Trails

Photo © Joel Mikkelsen

The story of America's rail-trails is rich with characters like the late Bill Field. The Michigan farmer is known and loved by people in this state as the unstoppable force behind the creation of the Hart-Montague Trail State Park, one of the America's great rural rail-trails.

A big man with a booming voice and a presence that always made itself known in a room, Field visited the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin in the late 1970s and returned to Michigan determined to develop a trail through the abandoned railroad corridor that stretched from Hart to Montague, tracks that he grew up around.

The project became known as "Field's Folly." When Field (right) received no support from his fellow county officials for the rail-trail project, he took matters into his own hands, buying the property himself and donating the land, valued at $225,000, to the state.

Though many people laughed at "Field's Folly" then, no one is laughing now. The Hart-Montague Trail State Park is renowned by trail enthusiasts everywhere, and attracts thousands of visitors to the region each year.

So it is wonderful to see that the trail Field worked so hard for will now bear his name. Thanks to the efforts of Michigan State Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart.), legislation has been passed to rename the trail the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park. It is a fitting tribute to one of our nation's staunchest trail advocates, and a man who left a terrific legacy for the people of Michigan.

To learn more about Field's early struggles to build the trail, and the success it became, read Laura Stark's wonderful story on the Hart-Montague Trail State Park which was RTC's Trail of the Month for April.

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