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ECO-Trail, Sept. 5-7 on Drummond Island in Lake Huron
By Jeff Pope, The Ile Camera
When people use the words "Hummer" and "green" in the same sentence, it is usually to express how costly the off-road vehicles are, not how environmentally conscious the owners are.
But a group spearheaded by Grosse Ile resident and Hummer owner Rick Schmidt is working to change that.
To combat the critics, General Motors and Hummer owners created programs and organizations that perform charitable works on behalf of Mother Nature.
As part of their plan to improve the vehicle's image, about 45 Hummer owners gathered on Drummond Island in Lake Huron for an eco-trail event Sept. 5 to 7.
Schmidt organized the event with help from the International Hummer Owner Group, or I-HOG, and GM.
"We're always looking for off-road events and charity opportunities," he said. "We not only nurture Hummer passion, but we do charitable works."
The Hummer owners broke into two teams and went in opposite directions on an 8.5-mile loop.
Along with splashing through mud pits and water troughs and crawling over boulders, one group hauled off an abandoned logging truck while the other group picked up trash along the trails.
Schmidt said it took more than six hours to run the trail and clean up the trash. They had help with the cleanup from boys and girls of the Livonia-based Adventure Scouts.
The eco-trail took seven months to plan. I-HOG met with community representatives, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and GM to determine which roads to run on and asked what they could do to help Drummond Island.
The group held a private charity dinner and raised money through a public raffle to help buy a fire truck for the island. Local businesses donated the raffle prizes.
Community leaders on the island have said they did not want to have to tax residents to raise the $136,000 needed for the firefighting truck, and they were trying to find other ways to pay for the purchase.
The Hummer group raised $8,000 toward the goal.
Drummond Island has a fire truck, but wants one that can use fire-suppression foam because the island lacks fire hydrants. Firefighters pump water from Lake Huron, making fires in the interior of the island more difficult to extinguish.
GM program managers suggested Drummond Island to Schmidt for the eco-trail because Jeep owners use the island for their Jeep jamboree, a similar event that celebrates what many refer to as the original off-road vehicle.
Schmidt said GM suggested doing something that counteracts the poor reputation Hummers have received from environmental groups.
Schmidt admits that there is a negative stereotype with some Hummer owners.
"It does have that 'look at me' factor," he said. "There's enough (irresponsible owners) out there to make us all look bad. But it's the same with some Corvette and Harley (Davidson) drivers. They're not enthusiasts."
The local business organization picked the trail, Marblehead Loop, which the DNR approved.
GM provided the food on the day of the cleanup and a local resort offered free camping for the Adventure Scouts.
GM donated Hummer model toys to the Scouts and paid for a prime rib dinner.
"It was such a nice thing and went over big," Schmidt said. "The only complaint was they wish it was longer."
The drivers came mostly from Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio. They plan to do a similar off-road charity event next year, probably in a different state.
Schmidt has owned his Hummer for five years and has four-wheeled all over the world. He started I-HOG in 1998, and now the club has chapters throughout the world.
"It's like the Harley of SUVs," he said. "It's a fun thing."
The group participates in the Provide the Ride program.
A philanthropist provided tickets to Greenfield Village for abused mothers and children in shelters. I-HOG takes the moms and kids to and from the museum in their Hummers twice a year.
During the weekend, GM also announced a partnership with the national nonprofit organization Tread Lightly.
Tread Lightly was formed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management until it was turned over to the private sector in 1990.
GM's Hummer Helps and Tread Lightly's Restoration for Recreation programs aim to promote socially responsible four-wheeling by enhancing recreational areas and educating the public about responsible outdoor use.
Tread Lightly received a $100,000 endowment from Hummer to specifically be used as a grant-giving initiative. The endowment will be distributed to outdoor enthusiast clubs that are Tread Lightly members and have pinpointed recreational areas in need.
Betty Bailey of the Drummond Island Tourism Association said I-HOG, the Scouts and GM left the island in good condition.
"Sunday you wouldn't have known anybody had been there, other than it was all cleaned up," she said.