Paint Creek Trail welcomes new trail manager

Entire trail resurfacing planned

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 5, 2018

 Melissa Ford is the new manager of the Paint Creek Trail.

Melissa Ford is the new manager of the Paint Creek Trail.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — There’s a new face behind the Paint Creek Trail.

The Paint Creek Trailways Commission unanimously voted to hire Melissa Ford as the trail’s new manager.

Oakland Township Treasurer Donni Steele, who serves as one of the township’s liaisons on the Paint Creek Trailways Commission and was part of the ad hoc committee to hire a replacement, said Ford was selected for the position from a pool of around 100 applicants.

“She has the enthusiasm, the background and education to serve. … I was also really enthused she lived in one of the communities in which the trail goes through,” Steele said.

Ford replaces Kristen Myers, who served as the trail’s manager for more than 15 years.

“I was really interested in the position because it was within my community. I’m a Lake Orion resident, so the trail plays a big role in my life living there,” Ford said.

Ford said she also wanted to work at an institution where the things she was doing would impact the community she lives in.

“That was one of the things that really appealed to me about this job,” she explained.

Ford comes to the Paint Creek Trail after 11 years at the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, where she developed and managed the museum’s archives program, planned and prepared grant proposals for both state and federal funding agencies, and led the museum’s digitization and social media efforts. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and anthropology from Albion College and a master’s degree in public history.

“Some of my history background will definitely come into play here in the things that I’m going to do,” Ford said. “The trail has a historic root, being the old Penn (Central) railroad line, and there are a few little historic sites along the trail, too, that we hope in the future to have some informational labels for.”

Owned and managed by the Paint Creek Trailways Commission, the Paint Creek Trail is an 8.9-mile linear park that travels through Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Orion Township and Lake Orion. The trail was the first nonmotorized rail-trail in Michigan. The Detroit-Bay City Railroad Co. later became known as the Michigan Central Railroad Co. and later still as the Penn Central Transportation Co. The company abandoned the railroad line in the 1970s and filed for bankruptcy.

The trail, which opened to the public in 1983, is now part of a regional rail-trail included in the Iron Belle Trail, planned as a statewide hiking and bicycling trail stretching from Belle Isle Park in Detroit to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.

Ford’s first day on the job was Oct. 23, and she said she hit the ground running, writing a grant in her first two weeks.

“I learned a lot, real quick, working on that grant. It was exciting to get that in. Now I’m more settled into the daily tasks,” she said.

Her responsibilities include overseeing the maintenance of the trail, managing trail development projects, working on grant administration and leading updates of the trail’s recreation master plan.

“I think that we’re off to a wonderful start with her,” said Steele.

Through her role as trail manager, Ford hopes to increase volunteer activity on the trail, develop new programming opportunities, and raise public awareness of the trail through social media and other outreach initiatives.

The Trailways Commission has two major projects planned for the spring — resurfacing the entire 8.9-mile trail and replacing a 100-year-old Paint Creek Trail railroad bridge in Oakland Township — and will have to update its master plan.

“I’ll be working with the commission on that plan, as well as engaging the community in that process to get feedback on what about the trail and what our users think we should improve upon,” Ford said.

The Paint Creek Trail receives over 100,000 visitors annually.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting the different people who have come off the trail to say hello. It’s great to meet all our users,” Ford said.

For more information, visit www.paintcreektrail.org or call (248) 651-9260.