Polly Ann Trail volunteer, Dave VandenBerghe, devotes time and effort to clearing the trail


IMLAY TWP. — With the exception of rainy days and Sundays, Dave VandenBerghe can usually be found working along a section of the Polly Ann Trail.

VandenBerghe, 70, has been mowing, trimming, removing debris and fallen trees, replacing culverts, and essentially clearing the trail for those wishing to walk or ride the trail.

Man on a mission

One day last week, VandenBerghe brought along his backhoe and shovel to clean out a section of trail near Bowers Road for the application of a limestone bed.

He noted that early spring and late autumn are the best times for such work.

Volunteer Dave VandenBerghe dedicates many hours to ensuring that the Polly Ann Trail is well-maintained and free of debris for the many people who use the trail for walking, biking and riding.

“You have to get to it before all the greenery comes in,” he said. “I’m basically reclaiming the ditches to get the water and mud off the trail.”

The preparatory work represents just a small portion of VandenBerghe’s overall efforts to ensure that the trail remains safe and passable for users.

“I probably spend about 48 hours a week out here in all kinds of weather,” VandenBerghe said. “Doing this really isn’t work for me, because I have a love and passion for these trails.

“I’m hoping to help preserve this trail for future generations to use, including my grandkids and their kids.”

His strong work ethic and commitment to the Polly Ann Trail blend well with his faith in God.

In addition to spending 40 years with Ford Motor Company and farming his own property, VandenBerghe was a member of the local clergy for 15 years; having recently retired as a deacon at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lapeer.

One of VandenBerghe’s biggest boosters is David Howell, Chairman of the Friends of the Polly Ann Trail organization.

“I do not know how the trail would be passable without all the work Dave does,” Howell said. “Other than helping with his fuel costs, he is not paid for all the hours he puts in.”

Although Lapeer County receives about $10,000 annually from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), Howell said it is not nearly enough to maintain the trail.

“Maintaining the trail takes a lot more money than what the DNR funds can cover,” Howell said. “That’s why Dave’s efforts are so important and appreciated.

“Dave is also a great ambassador for the Polly Ann Trail,” Howell added. “He talks to a lot of the people he encounters while out working on the trail.”

Trail Run in June

Howell reminded that this year’s “Polly Ann Trail Run/Walk” returns on Saturday, June 4.

He said the 4.5-mile Run/Walk event will start and finish at Imlay City High School.

Donations welcome

David Howell said anyone wishing to make a donation to the Polly Ann Trail can visit the website, or contact him at 248-933-6184.

Or contact Dave VandenBerghe at 810-338-3054, or email to devanfarms@yahoo.com.