National Trails Day, which is slated to take place June 1, will take on a little extra meaning for the North Newton community this year.
Celebrated regularly in North Newton since the Sand Creek Trail — originating at the Bethel College campus — was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2011, this will be the first year it is held in the absence of one of the trail's founding fathers, Jacob D. Goering.
Goering died earlier this year on his 101st birthday. While he may not be around to take part in National Trails Day this year, his legacy in helping establish the Sand Creek Trail will be remembered on that day. The city of North Newton has officially proclaimed June 1 to be Jacob D. Goering Trail Day. To many people, it is a fitting tribute for a beloved community figure.
"Jake was held in high regard by everybody who knew him as being an inspiration. He worked on the trail up until close to his 100th birthday," said North Newton city administrator John Torline. "He touched the lives of so many people and he was remembered most notably for the trail because it was his."
Highlighting Goering's instrumental role, which began more than 20 years ago, in the formation of the Sand Creek Trail, the idea behind the Jacob D. Goering Trail Day was spurred partly by the outpouring of stories shared at his memorial service. Establishing a day in his honor would allow the community to continue celebrating his memory in a place that held special significance to him.
For National Trails Day, the Sand Creek Trail Committee is usually in charge of organizing the day's activities and that will be no different this year, although those activities will highlight what Goering meant to the Sand Creek Trail. According to Torline, the official proclamation of Jacob D. Goering Trail Day will be posted at the trailhead that day. Fellow Sand Creek Trail committee member David Kreider noted the group will also be greeting people and offering water and light refreshments at the trailhead for those who participate in the day — a slight amendment to normal proceedings at Sand Creek Trail for National Trails Day.
"This year, we're highlighting Jake, who was instrumental in getting it established as a more permanent trail," Kreider said. "The trail is recognized as a national recreational trail and it's kind of one of the little gems, part of what makes living in the Newton area great. Honoring Jake's role in that is a good way of remembering the importance of trails."
Working on the trail became a third career for Goering after he retired with his wife, Beth, to North Newton. He was a prime figure in its establishment through fundraising efforts, volunteering in the physical creation of the trail and, of course, being a frequent user of it.
Kreider said those wanting to participate in Jacob D. Goering Trail Day are encouraged to come out anytime from dusk to dawn (roughly 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.) on June 1. In past years, average attendance for the National Trails Day events has been about 150, but more are expected this year on the honorary holiday in Goering's memory — something attendees are encouraged to keep in mind on that day while on the trail.
"I hope they're able to take the time to walk the Sand Creek Trail, get a bottle of water from one of the volunteers and, as the proclamation says, ponder a life well-lived," Torline said.
For more information on the Jacob D. Goering Trail Day, check the kiosk at the trailhead located near Memorial Grove on the Bethel College campus or visit www.bethelks.edu/community/affiliate-organizations/sand-creek-trail.