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Park Director's Blog

23

All Free, All Fun, All Summer Long!
By Amy McMillan

Playground programs in the local parks were an essential part of summer for many of us of “a certain age.”  Less formal than day camps, they were filled with fun activities every day and supervised by playground staff that all of us kids idolized. Playground programs were the center of our summertime existence, and they were free! They kept us busy, out of trouble, and sent us home tired every day, all summer long. All these years later, I still know the words to the songs we learned to sing. And I happily recount to my young nieces my youthful expertise at “capture the flag,” which was my all-time favorite playground game.

Although summer playground programs were free to kids, they were very expensive for parks and recreation departments to operate.  As budgets shrunk, free summer playground programs disappeared from most local neighborhoods – and from the Genesee County Parks.

Thanks to the generosity of local and national funders, kids in Genesee County can drop in Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at Bluebell Beach, Flushing County Park, Davison Roadside County Park or Buell Lake County Park for crafts, gardening, games, nature programs and lunch.  They’re all free, all fun, all summer long – all the things that summer was when we were kids!

Our heartfelt thanks the Ruth Mott Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and the Walmart Foundation; plus our partners at the CRIM and Food Bank, who made these programs possible.
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21

11,000 of My Favorite Things
By Amy McMillan

 
I have a somewhat weird affection for grammar, and one of my particular quirks is a great disdain for repetition.  This makes the Thesaurus feature in Word my absolute favorite function in the entire program.

So, it is more than a little ironic that it occurred to me last week, as I was writing a blog post, that I use the phrase “my favorite…” a lot in describing places to go and things that I especially love to do in the Genesee County Parks. I began to envision people who regularly read this blog rolling their eyes and muttering to themselves “…enough with the favorite already...how many favorites can one person have, unless they are in 3rd grade?”

After all, shouldn’t there be only one favorite thing?  Isn’t that what having a favorite is all about?  If you’re the County Parks Director, is it even right to have a favorite?

Since my trusty Thesaurus button with its suggestions of “favored, preferred, chosen” provided none of the passion I feel about the flora, fauna and folks of the Genesee County Parks, I turned to the Webster’s online dictionary and found this: Favorite (adjective):  “markedly popular.”.  BINGO!

Truthfully, I love all of the Genesee County Parks equally.  On a rating scale of 1 to 100, each one of the 11,000 acres is a solid 156 in my heart.  And because there is something absolutely exceptional and unique to be found in each of those 11,000 acres, I could cite at least 11,000 different favorite things without violating my personal rule of repetition.  Next time you need to get away, right away, to one of your Genesee County Parks, I am confident you will find something that is “markedly popular” with you, too.

Makes me wish Rodgers and Hammerstein were still around to write a new version of “My Favorite Things” about the Genesee County Parks.
 
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19

Turn In To The Slow Lane
By Amy McMillan

The Genesee County Parks are best enjoyed up close and personal, using your own two feet, the two wheels of your bicycle or the four wheels of your chair.  The health benefits of walking, running, riding and playing in the parks are undeniable.  Clip a leash on your favorite 4-legged friend to accompany you, and you will feel like Nirvana is within your grasp.

Spending some time with nature in the parks is good for your physical health, and it's good for your mental health too.  Yet, for most of us, demanding schedules pretty much restrict our time in the parks to before work, after work or, on weekends.

If your schedule is anything like mine, you spend way more time than you would like in your car.  We drive to work, drive to attend meetings, we drive to run errands, and we drive to cross off from our to-do lists the hundreds of things that need to get done in our busy lives.  But there is an excellent way to squeeze a little bit of park time into your day - especially if you spend part of that day in a car. 

Given that the Genesee County Parks encompass 11,000 incredible acres in this county, it's likely that you'll pass near at least one of our 21 County Parks on your way from "here" to "there".  Turn in, downshift to 15 mph or so, and enjoy a picturesque drive and a few minutes, all to yourself.  Breathe, relax and enjoy the beauty.
Only nature can provide this kind of relaxation and beauty.
James Bassett Drive, the Parks road that links Genesee to Coldwater Road and the entrance to Bluegill Boat Launch, is one of my favorite spots.  Turn off the radio, roll the windows down and listen to the birds and the bullfrogs sing.  Relish the shade of the tree-lined lane.  Revel in whatever wildflower is blooming that day, like these gorgeous, wild irises I spotted this week. 

Arrive mentally refreshed and revived.  Your blood pressure will thank you, and so will your co-workers!  Have you got a favoritie drive-thru spot in a Genesee County Park?  Tell us about it!

 
 
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15

2 Left Feet
By Amy McMillan

Picture yourself doing Zumba at Bluebell Beach! 

Join me, my two left feet, and people from all over Genesee County at Bluebell Beach on Saturday, June 18 as we Zumba our way into the Guinness World Records for the largest Zumba class on the planet.

The world-record attempt will begin at 11 a.m., but be there no later than 10:30 a.m. so our volunteers can get you checked in, put a certified wrist band on you and give you a free bottle of water. The group needs to be ready to go when the official clock begins ticking at 11 a.m.

Want to be part of this historical event, but feel like you’re not exactly a Zumba master?  Not a problem.  All you have to do is paste a big Zumba smile on your face and keep moving in some reasonably rhythmic manner for one hour. If you stop moving, one of our officials will step in, snip your wrist band and ask you to leave the group. Harsh, I know, but those Guinness officials are sticklers when it comes to details.

The Zumba record-breaking attempt is just one of the great activities you’ll find at the Physical Feast Fitness Fair on Saturday. Click here for more information.

 

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14

Live! From the Colwell Opera House
By Amy McMillan

Good Old Fashioned Entertainment  and Fun at the Huckleberry Radio Hour 
If you thought that affordable, live entertainment had gone the way of the dinosaurs, I have news for you:  the Huckleberry Radio Hour, Michigan’s only regularly-scheduled, live radio variety show returns to Crossroads Village and the Huckleberry Railroad on Saturday, June 18.

The fourth season gets off to a rollicking start with special guest artist singer-songwriter Claudia Schmidt, an accomplished 12-string guitar performer who can also hammer a dulcimer into submission. She will be joined by Huckleberry Radio Hour regulars Neil Woodward, the Flint Jubilee Quartet, Gary Weisenberg and the Huckleberry Players.  If we do say so ourselves, the Colwell Opera House, with its astounding acoustics, is the perfect venue for this great collection of entertainers.

Michael J. Thorp is the creative force behind the scenes and the show’s host. He compares the Huckleberry Radio Hour to classic radio shows such as the Grand Ole Opry, the Jack Benny Program and A Prairie Home Companion. 

What makes the Huckleberry Radio Hour unique?  The difference is that the Huckleberry Radio Hour is all about Michigan.

Join our audience and become part of the show, which airs live on Flint’s own WFNT beginning at 7 p.m. sharp. Tickets are just $5 and are available at the ticket booth at Crossroads Village (June 15 - June 18 from 9:45 am – 4:30 pm), by calling our reservation office 810-736-7100 extension 6 (Monday thru Friday 8am – 5 pm) or online. 

The Huckleberry Radio Hour is funded by a generous grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation.
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14

Genesee County Parks: A place where you can exercise your body and your right to free speech.
By Amy McMillan

If you read a story in this weekend’s Flint Journal titled “Group seeking to recall Gov. Snyder asking permission to collect petition signatures in Genesee County parks” you may be wondering just what the heck the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission is doing wading into the murky waters of politics.
 
It’s a reasonable question with a simple answer: This is not about politics.

The Parks Commissioners’ and Park Staff’s opinions about local, state and national politics have no place in our deciding the manner in which people are permitted to use the Genesee County Parks. None.

Parks are places where we go to get away.  When hundreds of thousands of Genesee County residents want to get away, they head to the Genesee County Parks to unplug from the stress and strain of everyday life, including the latest political headlines. 

Yet, parks are also public places that have been recognized by the Supreme Court to be traditionally devoted to assembly and debate. 

I’m paraphrasing Parks Commission Legal Counsel Brian Barkey here: It does not matter if the Parks Commission and its staff are against or are in favor of any particular debated topic. We cannot - and do not - make any rule that has the effect of limiting or curtailing the communication of ideas in the Genesee County Parks unless we can demonstrate that the rule is necessary to protect people or the parks.

The people who contacted my office to request permission to be in the Genesee County Parks for the purpose of making petitions available for signatures have asked to be in an area that is public and visible, with a little shade to protect them from the sun.  They understand that they may not impair the use of park facilities by others, and they must stay out of the flow of pedestrian traffic. 

Each Genesee County Park will have a designated area in which individuals may exercise their rights of free political speech under the First Amendment.  It doesn’t matter what their individual politics are.

If you seek permission to do the same, give me a call (810-249-3812) or send me an email
amcmillan@gcparks.org to begin the process of getting written permission.
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12

Playing Favorites
By Amy McMillan

Looks like a great place to start a family!
Turtles have always been my favorite member of reptile family.  Box turtles, painted turtles, even snapping turtles, I love them all for the link to the ancient world of dinosaurs and for their can do attitude that gets them from here to there no matter how long it takes.
 
This week we were privileged to be in the path of this beauty as she passed by our office on her search for the perfect place to lay her eggs.
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9

Alabama, Alaska (yes, Alaska,) Arizona, Arkansas
By Amy McMillan

Click on registration to sign up!  The deadline is Friday, July 8 at 3:00 p.m. …California, Colorado, Connecticut…  Do you remember this little sing-song trick for reciting the names of all the states in alphabetical order?  It’s been happily playing in my head all week, minus Delaware, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

Why am I hearing this tune and not the latest chart-topper? Because over 22,000 people from 44 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, have already registered for the Warrior Dash and will be held at Genesee County Parks’ own E.A. Cummings Event Center on July 30 and 31.

In case you’re not familiar with the Warrior Dash, it’s a mud-crawling, fire-leaping, obstacle-filled extreme run, held on the most challenging and extreme terrains in the world. Whew! 

And so far, over 22,000 runners, plus their friends and family, are planning to travel thousands of miles to get here, and will be spending literally millions of dollars at restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, gas stations and stores in our community.  WOW!

If you know anyone in Delaware, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island or Wyoming, tell them that registration is only open until 3:00 on July 8 and the few remaining spots are filling fast.

Interested? C’mon…how hard can it be to endure a few hours of extreme mud-crawling and fire-leaping? Besides, you get to take home a very cool warrior helmet…
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7

The early bird gets the worm, and the fish!
By Amy McMillan

This one didn't get away! Join us for Saturday and catch one for yourself.Nothing says “summer” in Michigan like dropping a line in the water and waiting for “the big one” to bite.  And there’s no better place for your kids to learn to fish than right around the corner, here in your Genesee County Parks.

So gather up your kids and come join us for the 7th annual Kids Fishing Derby on Saturday, June 11 at Bluegill Boat Launch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  All you need to bring is your fishing poles and your kids.

Our good friends at the Fishing Tackle Grab Bag are supplying the bait. The generous members of the Flint River Valley Steelheaders are volunteering their time, their know-how and their boats. They’ll take the kids out on Mott Lake and teach them how to bait a hook and cast a line.

If luck is with the kids, they’ll learn how to take a freshly-caught fish off the hook. If they are even luckier, they’ll catch a lifelong love of fishing.

Lunch is free, and any fish the kids catch can go home with them for dinner.

A daily or season pass is required to enter Bluegill Boat Launch, but participation in the Kids Fishing Derby is free, and no fishing license is required for this event. For more information click here.
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2

Two Cookies, To Go Please
By Amy McMillan

 Know a local eatery that can whip up a great picnic basket?  Let me know!
Having a picnic in the park with family and friends is one of the great all-time summer traditions in Michigan, and there are countless amazing spots throughout the Genesee County Parks to picnic.  But when it comes to having the culinary skills required to pack a great picnic, it would be fair to say that I am more than a bit challenged in that area. Although my dogs seem to appreciate the scrambled eggs I cook for their breakfast each morning, they do not possess the most discriminating of palates. And, as much as my friends and family love me, they are always slow to answer when I ask what I can bring to a potluck-style picnic.

Thankfully, whether you are pressed for time or pressed for talent, there are all kinds of great locally-owned restaurants, delis and bakeries right on the way to almost every Genesee County Park, and their staff are happy to pack up something delicious to go.  Even the most remote places offer some great picnic foods.  

Skeptical?  Stop at Elba Corners on your next trip out to the Hogbacks, and fill your saddlebag or backpack with the most delicious peanut-butter no-bake cookies made there daily. You’ll be a believer!

Got a favorite locally owned picnic outfitter? Let me know so I can pass it along to our readers!
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