Essay Project 2021: Portland River Trail - The Community's Connector
By Timothy Pohl
When I think of the Portland River Trail I’m reminded that “a walk in nature walks the soul back home”-Mary Davis. This 8 mile-long path has been with Portland since its inception in the 1990s. The main segment of trail was converted from a railroad that was active from 1869 until 1987. According to Neil Brown, the current Parks and Recreation director in Portland, “The previous Parks & Rec Director, Mary Scheurer, was pivotal in the creation of the entire river trail system.” The trail permeates throughout most of the city, going through Portland’s breathtaking wilderness, parks, historic sites, and local businesses. The river trail has become a core aspect to Portland’s community by connecting the city's key points of interests, the connection of nature, and the people themselves.
The trail has hosted a variety of different things to do and see. Saint Patrick Parish and The Relay for Life have hosted races and marathons for the community. During the Christmas season, the trail is lined with community decorated trees and dubbed as the Christmas tree lane. Music can often be heard from the local favorite, the Band Shell. The trail runs alongside the Red Mill and the pavilion, which holds events such as the Farmers market and the occasional graduation party. The river trail has become ingrained into the Portland culture as a transportation to fun events. The river trail provides an important connection from the current residents to the people in the community that are no longer with us. The trail is lined with benches dedicated to loved ones, placed in picturesque areas to enjoy the view. The trail leads people to the memorial for all the fallen war heroes and people who gave their lives for their country. The river trail is adorned with treasured memories and small reminders of people who will always be with the community.
As a Portland resident, I have had the privilege of growing up right next to the trail. I’ve made countless memories with my friends and family on the river-walk. The trail is where I first learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, where I raced my siblings to the nearest ice cream place, where I discovered the best fishing spots with my dad. It also provided a great place to go to have adventures with friends. I could run into anyone just around the bend of the river walk.
The river trail also provides an opportunity for the community to learn about nature in a hands-on way. The river trail provides a window for everyone to share the experience of exploring a complex ecosystem. Discoveries of the wildlife such as deer leaping across the path, turtles basking on hot rocks, and startled snakes slipping through the grass are staples of the experience of Portland. The Michigan Wildflower Farm even created a section of native wildflowers for everyone to enjoy. These learning opportunities have made the people of Portland more connected to the community of nature.
The river trail is an essential artery to the people of Portland; it connects people to events, their history, the beauty of nature, and to their neighbors. The bountiful activities provide entertainment. The memorials stand as an important reminder of where the community came from. I know how important the river trail is to the community because of the impact it had on myself, and the bonds I made with others because of it. Finally, the trail provides a connection with nature that bonds the people of Portland. The river trail is an important piece for the people in the City of Two Rivers.
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.