You probably wouldn’t give a man much credit for reinventing the wheel, but what about a man who reinvents the Wheelway?

The man in question is Dr. John Shields and the Wheelway is the Little Traverse Wheelway from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs that is nearing completion this summer.

The “reinvention” had to occur because the original wheelway from Petoskey to Harbor Springs that had been built around 1890 during a bicycle boom had fallen into disuse and eventually was forgotten.

Enter Dr. John Shields. In the early 1970’s Shields, a physician in Petoskey at the time, hit upon the idea of developing a new bike path around Little Traverse Bay to Harbor Springs. His idea was that biking was not only good recreation but it was also healthy, the same arguments that would later be used to spark the current interest in outdoor activities and trails.

In 1972 the Little Traverse Wheelway Committee was formed to start planning for the new trails. Dr. Shields eventually moved away from Petoskey, but others remained to carry on the work. Current Wheelway Committee members Fred Fettis and Max Putters are from the original group and countless others, including the late Horace “Huffy” Hoffman, the late Jake Jakab, and Conservancy Director, Tom Bailey, have worked tirelessly over the years to move the trail projects forward. Now, some 37 years after the initial meetings, the projects are being realized.

A ribbon cutting to officially open the “Resort Bluffs” trail segment is going to take place on June 20th at Resort Township’s East Park just west of Petoskey. The rededication of East Park is also part of the ceremonies, so the entire EVENT will be a great public celebration to dedicate the new trail and newly redesigned and reopened park. Among the many dignitaries and contributors to the trail who are expected to be in attendance are: past and present State Legislators, local elected officials, local agency representatives, and the all important State agencies whose support was critical (MDOT, DNR, DEQ, Coastal Zone).

And what of Dr. John Shields? We found him in Traverse City and asked him to be present for the dedication of the trail that he reinvented. He has said that he is no longer able to bike but would be pleased to be present for the ceremony. Let’s give him the credit he deserves and say thank you.

By the way, the Resort Blufs segment that is being officially opened on June 20 is the most stunninly beautiful part of the entire Wheelway. Don’t you dare miss it.

For more information on this special community event you can check out the Top of Michigan Trails Council website at www.trailscouncil.org.

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