Mike Kuepper’s first memories are of living in a Chicago apartment that had a very small concrete pad at the back of the building.
When he was 5, though, his family moved to Peru, and he discovered the wide open outdoors.
That led to his first trail project, he says with tongue partly in cheek: a path down a hill through a woods behind his house.
“We would sit in our little red wagon,” he recalled, “fly down the hill through the trees, finally grab a vine, and swing to safety, while the wagon crashed into a dry creek bed. If my mom ever knew …
“Guess I have been playing in the woods ever since.”
Kuepper has been playing in more than the woods. He has been the catalyst for the Nickel Plate Trail, which continues to receive grants as it evolves into one of Indiana’s best outdoor attractions.
When I told him I thought he was obsessed with developing the NPT, he responded in his soft voice, “I wouldn’t say obsessed. I’d say driven.”
Asked how others would describe him, he says his younger brother, Tom, and co-workers at Kuepper Favor — of which Mike is president — say he is consistent, comfortable, persistent, steady and public-minded. Bill Click, a former Miami County councilman and Peru fireman who has worked closely with him on the NPT, says tenacious, Mike adds.
Kuepper’s wife, Ingrid (Larson), describes him as being a visionary who is diplomatic and flexible in finding solutions.
Adjectives don’t matter. What does are the results Michael A. Kuepper, 61, has achieved in making the NPT an important asset for Miami and adjoining counties.
Kuepper’s ability to acquire grant money continues be tremendously successful.
Grants that were awarded last summer will be used to purchase the old Penn Central corridor that runs just south of Grissom Air Reserve Base to McGrawsville, he said in interviews.