Dean Knuth noticed it years ago: a marker on Douglas Avenue in semirural Kalamazoo County, in the front yard of an old brick house near the Allegan County line. A metal plaque on a stone remembers the "old toll gate” on the road to Grand Rapids.
This wasn’t just any toll road. It was a plank road - one of hundreds of wooden roadways built in the U.S. in the 19th century. The plank roads made travel quicker and easier (if not always safer), and yet they struggled to stay in business.