October 9, 2009, SUTTONS BAY- Last night, at a dinner event at Black Star Farms, the officials of Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails awarded the 6th annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award. The award was presented to Tom Phillips by TART’s executive director Bob Otwell.
Tom Phillips served on the TART board from 2000 – 2006 and was president in 2002. However, he is probably best known for his enormous pro-bono legal help to preserve the Leelanau Trail. Tom represented the trail in several lawsuits that contested trail property ownership. The cases were heard before the 13th Circuit Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court.
Tom also worked to secure a Special Land Use Permit and Overlay Zone in Bingham Township which took 10 years. Tom drove this process, attended dozens of township meetings, at the planning commission, zoning board of appeals, and town board levels.
Tom continues to stay engaged with the organization. This past summer, Tom saw a job that needed to be done. He noticed the caboose at Carter Road falling into disrepair. Tom organized work crews, gathered materials, and poured sweat into getting the job done. Tom has researched the history of the caboose and envisions it as a little respite haven for all to relax, learn about the history of the railroad, and encourage others to get involved in TART.
One of the quotes from a nomination letter said it best, “Few of us had the vision, expertise, and tenacious gumption that Tom had to see the Leelanau Railroad corridor transformed into the incredible community resource it is. The Leelanau Trail is enjoyed each day of every season by countless users, and is preserved for future generations. We are so fortunate and indebted to Tom Phillips for taking on a leadership role to save this corridor. “
The Jim Mudgett Award was created to honor and pay tribute to individuals who have shown leadership and passion for our local trails. The award is given annually at TART’s Octoberfest dinner party.