At the heart of our mission is the successful operation of the Betsie Valley Trail. We could not achieve this mission year-after-year without the tireless dedication of our Trail Care Coordinators.

We’ve been very fortunate for the past four years to have John Rothhaar serving in the role of Trail Care Coordinator (TCC) for the Betsie Valley Trail. John has also served on Board for the Friends and has been a member of the Management Council since 2017.Learn a more about John and the critical role he plays in the following interview. We hope you’ll join us in recognizing John for his dedication and accomplishments, and also consider helping out as we get started with the 2020 season. However, please be advised that during COVID-19 restrictions, there are no planned group clean-up activities.

If you are interested in knowing more about what you can do individually, please read John’s recent message concerning helping out at this time. Please report any conditions that need more attention (like large amounts of litter, trees or limbs down, or other concerns — especially safety concerns) directly to John by emailing:

Q: John, please share how you got started volunteering for the BVT and how you became Trail Care Coordinator?

A: As a participant in many different outdoor activities, I got interested in rail trails as far back as the mid-1980’s.  When living in Mid-Michigan I had an opportunity to be involved in the creation of the Pere Marquette rail trail, so I got an inside look at how a world class trail gets created and what a great asset a trail can be for the communities it passes through. 

As a part-time Benzie County resident for over 15 years and a full-time resident for almost 10 years, my wife and I were regular users of the Betsie Valley Trail, and I was an occasional volunteer.  When the Friends of the Trail were seeking a replacement Trail Care Coordinator, I volunteered because I felt it was a way to contribute to the community and to support an amenity that I believe is so valuable.

I’ve always appreciated the fact that our trail, which is top notch, was developed and is maintained solely with volunteers and with contributions and grants.  We use no local tax money; we have no direct supporting infrastructure like a parks department; and we have no paid staff.  

I also believe that our trail can be even better.  My wife and I have traveled quite a bit around the country, usually with our bikes, and have used trails all over.  Some aspects of our trail are right up there with the best, but there is room for improvement.

Q: Tell us what’s given you the most satisfaction from your role as TCC?

A:  Serving as Trail Coordinator has been an extremely gratifying role.  When other volunteers and I are out on the trail working, we get many thank-you’s and expressions of appreciation, but probably the biggest satisfaction is seeing folks using and enjoying the trail.  Whether it’s families, groups of friends, or individuals, it’s so gratifying to know you’ve helped provide a safe and enjoyable place for folks to be outside, get exercise and enjoy the natural beauty of our area.

It’s also very satisfying to see how much trail users and property owners along the trail care about the trail and look after it.  Rarely is litter a problem, and often we’ll go out after a storm to clear downed trees or branches and find that a trail angel has already taken care of things.

Recently, it’s been very satisfying and encouraging to see that the Trailway Management Council and Friends of the Trail are actively pursuing ways to make the trail better.  Major signage improvements were made in 2018.  We’ve applied for and received a grant to upgrade the trail surface along Crystal Lake in the Beulah area.  Long term planning is starting that will lead to: an extension of the trail around Betsie Bay to the Elberta waterfront park, parking and trailhead improvements, and upgrading the trail between Beulah and Thompsonville — where our trail could connect with trails being developed in Wexford and Manistee Counties!

Lastly, as someone who enjoys variety and learning new things, serving as Trail Care Coordinator has been a great experience.  Everything from learning about the history of the trail and the railroad before that, to the habits of wild beavers, to understanding different grades of gravel aggregate or how to prevent invasive plants from damaging the trail, there is always something new and interesting.

Q: What would you like to say to potential volunteers?

A: First, to all past volunteers, I would like to send out a huge thank you! You’ve allowed us to keep our trail as the great asset it is at an incredibly low overall cost. 

For new volunteers, I would encourage you to get involved at whatever level your time and energy allows. I can assure you that you’ll feel great satisfaction when you help to maintain this community resource that’s used and valued by so many. And if you’re so inclined, it’s a great opportunity for you to provide input and direction about the trail and where you feel we should be focusing our efforts. 

In addition, we are always open for suggestions on how better to reach out and schedule volunteer activities.  If you do not receive notices of trail work days (during spring, summer and fall), make sure you get on the Trail Care Coordinator’s volunteer list by signing up through the Friends website or sending an email to