W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest manager wins Friend of the Trail Award

Manager of the MSU W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest, Kenneth (KJ) Kettler, was recently awarded the Friend of the Trail Award from the North Country Trail Association (NCTA).

Three people with name tags posing for the camera and smiling with the middle person holding an award
Left to right: Jeff Fleming, KJ Kettler, Andrea Ketchmark

“There is a longstanding relationship with the NCTA and Kellogg Forest has been supportive of the trail and hikers. KJ has shown extraordinary efforts in continuing the support,” said Jeff Fleming, member of the Chief Noonday Chapter of the NCTA. “Whenever there is a need or an issue to be addressed regarding the NCT, KJ has been available and willing to resolve those as needed. Thanks to his leadership and can-do attitude, he is a shining example of a cooperative partner,” said Fleming.

The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) guides visitors through the heart of the Kellogg Forest, providing multiple views of Augusta Creek and many opportunities to observe ongoing research conducted by researchers from MSU and other universities.

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Harvesting red pine in the Kellogg Forest

Projects viewable from the trail have included harvests and thinning of red pine, white pine, and Norway spruce, the regeneration of oak in conifer plantations, a beech bark disease study, and a storm salvage harvest underplanted with white oak protected from deer browse by grow tubes.

Kettler says the collaboration with the NCTA is possible due to aligned goals and objectives.

“We share an appreciation for nature and this space, and allowing many groups access to things like fishing, birding, and the department of forestry demonstrations,” said Kettler. “The trail provides access to a safe environment for the public while respecting boundaries and preventing disruption to research projects.”

The trail itself has been re-routed four times in the last two years, due to the sale of adjacent private property, altering trail access, as well as an ongoing logging research project. COVID-related restrictions also affected access to public areas mandated for research. “Anytime we have needed to reroute the trail, the NCTA has never complained. They’ve been a champion for us. Their purpose of having a trail through here really complements our outreach objective,” said Kettler.

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Improvements made to the entrance trail

A larger, collaborative project between Kellogg Forest and NCTA included rebuilding a footbridge over Augusta Creek. The project, led by Kettler with cooperation from volunteers in the NCTA, involved replacing deteriorating foundation beams. The bridge’s deck and railing were salvaged and rebuilt on the new foundation.

The log beams were sourced from a European Larch plantation which was established in 1937 during the "reforestation era" and they span Augusta Creek at nearly 50 feet long. 

Reconstructing and repairing the footpath and bridge

Mickey Trimner, Forest Technician, used his more than 28 years of experience running equipment at Kellogg Forest to skillfully place the beams across Augusta Creek using the old footbridge as a platform before it was deconstructed.

The NCTA and the National Park Service (NPS) work together to unite collaborators that build and maintain the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) and tell its story. The NCNST stretches 4,800 miles across eight states, making it the longest National Scenic Trail in America. The NCNST also runs right through Kellogg Experimental Forest.

Michigan hosts the most North Country Trail miles of all eight states. The trail crosses nearly the entire Upper Peninsula from east to west, allowing for almost 550 miles of trail use. The trail then traverses the mighty Mackinac Bridge at the Straits of Mackinac and continues for another 600 miles to the Ohio state line.

Established on abandoned agricultural land, the 716-acre Kellogg Experimental Forest is known worldwide for research on tree breeding and genetics, planting techniques, and plantation establishment and management, and is one of 15 off-campus MSU AgBioResearch centers across the state.

Kellogg Forest and the NCNST offer opportunities for the public to learn about ongoing university research, as well as enjoy scenic views and recreation opportunities. Please visit the W.K. Kellogg Forest website for additional visitor information.

Final product of the reconstructed footpath

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