Park Director's Blog

16

Amazing Field Trip Opportunities With Your Genesee County Parks
By Amy McMillan

Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission has wonderful opportunities for your students to learn and interact with nature and history.  If you’re afraid we’re out of your budget capabilities, we would like you to know that Target Corporation is accepting applications through October 1, from Educational professionals for the Target Field Trip Grants program, an annual program designed to expose K-12 students in the United States to museums, historical sites, and cultural organizations. Click here for more information. 

 

History Comes to Life  

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad offers a one-of-a-kind educational experience for your students. The Special Christmas School Day, December 9, 10:00am – 3:00pm, is offered to private, charter, public and home schools. History comes alive when you roll up your sleeves and take part in the every-day activities of a 19th century community. Click here for the School Days Curriculum Guide.

 

Our School Days field trips are also offered on multiple days in the Spring, starting mid-May through the end of the school year.


Student tickets (ages 3-12) include admission to the Village and a train ride. The cost is $7.50 per student with advance reservations. Teachers (one per class) and bus drivers receive free admission. Adult chaperones are admitted at the student rate. Home school groups do not get free tickets for teachers or chaperones. Visit our website for more information.

We also offer a Stanley School House program in the spring. The purpose of this program is to provide students and their teachers with a typical school day experience circa 1800s. We achieve this experience through the use of our authentic, one-room schoolhouse, provide each class with a trained schoolteacher who instruct students by using teaching styles and materials from the 1800s and we encourage students, teachers and chaperones to dress in clothing typical of the 1800s. For information on this program, please click here.

 

Interact with Nature  

For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum offers a wide variety of field trip options for all grade levels that will connect your student’s classroom learning to the natural world in a hands-on and meaningful way.  For-Mar offers Naturalist led guided hikes through the For-Mar property, as well as half day and full day educational programs that incorporate live animal time, nature hikes and topic based activities. We also offer programming for high school students that connect to their Educational Development Plans (EDP) from field trips that discuss and explore career pathways in the naturalist sciences to job shadowing to career fairs at your local schools, For-Mar is here to assist. These educational options are available to both day school and after school classrooms. All programs are designed and connected to Michigan’s Grade Level Educational Standards, including the Common Core State Standards and the STEM initiatives, as well as, use certified and award winning environmental education curriculums. To schedule a field trip to For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum, please contact Nicole Ferguson at 810-249-3895 or nferguson@gcparks.org.

 

You can even bring For-Mar to your school for educational experiences through our For-Mar On The Road programs. We have free and paid program offerings for K-8 grades focusing on nature, animals and plants. These programs are designed and connected to Michigan’s Grade Level Educational Standards, including the Common Core State Standards and the STEM initiatives, as well as, use certified and award winning environmental education curriculums.  Click here for all K-8 in school program descriptions. Click here for all Adult and Senior program descriptions. Click here for all Programs for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities. To schedule a For-Mar On The Road program, contact Michelle Maust at (810) 249-2380 or mmaust@gcparks.org.

 

Let us help you give your students a deeper understanding and appreciation for nature and history with fun and educational programs through the Genesee County Parks.  Please also click here to sign up for our email list and receive weekly information on the programs you're most interested in. 

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29

Stepping Stone Falls is Sporting New & Improved Lights
By Amy McMillan

Many folks, both local and out-of-towners, have enjoyed visiting Stepping Stone Falls at night to see them illuminated and take in some star gazing. The existing lights illuminating the falls had become outdated; replacement parts were no longer available and they were no longer able to efficiently be maintained.  At the beginning of this summer, the Genesee County Parks Commission began a light replacement project to change out the outdated system.  This improvement comes less than a year after all the new trail and bridge work took place in the park.

On Friday, August 19 Stepping Stone Falls returned to normal summer hours to debut the new lights. The new system allows increased energy efficiency by using all LED lights and allows for improved functionality. They also allow for new colorful displays illuminating the falls with multiple color combinations programmed into the current nightly “show”.

In addition to this lighting upgrade, Stepping Stone Falls park users can experience barrier free non-motorized trails that connect the park to Bluebell Beach and Bluegill Boat Launch. The newest section of trail connecting to Bluegill Boat Launch, and including a new bridge adjacent to the falls, was completed in October of last year.  Users also have access to the Flint River Trail at Bray Road. A new staircase within the park has an informal kayak and canoe launch allowing portage around the dam and a new dock was recently completed to allow the Genesee Belle to depart from Stepping Stone Falls once again.

Come out and experience the awesome updates at Stepping Stone Falls for yourself. Summer hours for Stepping Stone Falls have been extended to run through the end of September to allow visitors a chance to enjoy the new light system this year.  Those hours are Friday and Saturday 8am to midnight and Sunday – Thursday 8am to 11pm. After September, the park hours at Stepping Stone Falls will be 8am to dusk until the park closes for the winter season around December 1st.

 

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25

Treehouse Masters Came to For-Mar and Built Something Amazing!
By Amy McMillan

 

As children, most of us share a few similar dreams.  We all dream about what we’ll be when we get older and many of us dream about having a treehouse.  Some of us are lucky enough to have a treehouse of our own, but for most of us it’s just a dream.  Now that dream is a reality for kids and adults alike with a custom built, public treehouse at For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum!

 

A couple of years ago, a group of kids at a Wild Adventurers program at For-Mar were tasked with presenting a proposal to Genesee County Parks Director, Amy McMillan.  Their goal was to prove to her that a treehouse was a worthy addition for For-Mar and that it wasn’t just a cool thought that would lose its luster in a week like so many toys and fads do with kids.  After truly impressing her, the Genesee County Parks Commission agreed to adding a treehouse and begun saving funds to make it possible.  They also applied to Nelson Treehouse and Supply with a copy of the video from that presentation.  Two years later, the Parks Commission had raised sufficient funds and had begun scouting locations for a treehouse when a serendipitous call from Treehouse Masters changed the plans.

 

Although a treehouse was in the plan, we had no idea that we would end up with a custom built treehouse from the “treehouse master” himself, Pete Nelson, but that’s exactly what happened.  The Parks Commission had a small, but mighty, set of requirements for the treehouse when Nelson Treehouse and Supply began making their plans.  The plan was to add additional classroom space because the Visitor’s Center space is operating at capacity and For-Mar’s popularity continues to soar.  That meant it needed to hold at least 30 kids plus instructors.  It also needed to be barrier free, allowing even those in wheelchairs to experience the joys of being in the trees.

 

It was a tall order, but the crew at Nelson Treehouse and Supply came through with a beautiful AND functional design.  It took a little over a month for them to turn that design into a reality, but now visitors of all ages and abilities coming out to For-Mar will have the opportunity to experience a treehouse overlooking the Kearsley Creek.  Nestled back in black cherry, red oak, white oak, basswood and butternut hickory trees, the treehouse stands approximately 30 feet above the bed of the Kearsley Creek oxbow and can be accessed be either staircase or the ramp with grades to meet ADA requirements.

 

On the inside visitors will find tools and equipment for educational programming including a projector, binoculars, microscopes and some unique elements you won’t find in a traditional classroom.  The treehouse has an additional level of excitement as it was designed to be the headquarters for The Preservers, the Nature’s Superheroes that Genesee County Parks visitors have come to know.

We would love to share all the details of the construction process and the inside with everyone.  However, the build is going to be featured in a January episode of the Animal Planet show Treehouse Masters and you will be able to follow all the details then.  We will send out additional information as that date gets closer.

 

For now, you can still come see the treehouse for yourself!  It will be open to the public starting Wednesday, August 24 at 8am.  Please watch the For-Mar facebook page for update on hours as well as programming as we work through those details in the coming weeks.

 

To the trees!

 

 


 

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24

Drain Commission Construction Taking Place In Hogbacks Area
By Amy McMillan

Over the next few months, park users in the Hogbacks and Elba area will notice some construction work taking place. This work is part of the Genesee County Drain Commission Water Supply System Contract S.5005.  There are a few things we want our park visitors to be aware of. 

1.       Contractors will be placing orange construction fencing along both sides of the temporary easement during construction activities.  Please watch for trail closed signs. They will be placed along the fence line every 400 feet at the beginning and end of the path.

2.       When the contractor  is working within existing trail crossings, they will back-fill the water-main trench with compacted back-fill and restore the existing trail crossings to a condition that will allow for equestrian uses as soon as possible at the end of the day.

3.       The contractor will place lighted barricades, fencing and trail closed signs at all trail crossing protecting equestrians from active construction areas, open trenches or other areas that would be harmful for equestrian use. 

Please also see a letter about the project from the Drain Commissioner by clicking here.

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12

Wild Pokemon have invaded the Genesee County Parks
By Amy McMillan

It only took one weekend for everyone to know about, or at least hear about, the new Pokemon Go! App and the excitement buzz it’s generating.  We don’t doubt you’ve heard about it by now either from social media, your friends or your kids.  We were thrilled to see so many people out exploring the parks over the weekend trying to catch ‘em all, and we appreciate that this new craze is encouraging physical activity in all age groups.

We’re here to tell you that wild Pokémon of all species have invaded your Genesee County Parks!  We need all you trainers out there to help us catch them.  They have shown up at our boat launches, trails, beaches and even For-Mar! There have been reports of Kakunas teasing children on the nature trail, rattatas munching plants in our hoop house and pidgeys playing with visitors. Have you found any others in the parks?  Share your quests with us using #geneseecountyparks

Your county parks make the perfect location to safely explore while on the hunt for your next catch.  Have an egg in your incubator? We have miles of both paved paths and hiking trails for you to explore while you gain that needed distance to hatch it. And remember – the parks have a variety of different habitats that may not exist near your house.  Come visit a shoreline for a chance to see and catch water-type Pokémon you might not find anywhere else.

You’ll also find some gyms and pokestops scattered throughout the parks so you can stock up on your pokeballs and potions, and maybe even find some eggs during your adventures. (P.S. – we already found three pokestops and one gym near our office)

We won’t judge – whether you’re 5 and Pokémon is new to you, or 25 and used to play it on Gameboy – or even 80 and remember when your kids or grandkids loved it before. If you feel the need to catch ‘em all come out and explore the parks and you may even run into others doing the same, but please remember your own safety.  Be aware of your surroundings to avoid tripping or other injuries. When driving within the parks, always be aware of children and other park users and please don’t Pokémon Go and drive.  Remember that most park hours are 8am to sunset and that you are not allowed to walk into park properties that are closed.  Normal fees for paid properties will still be enforced even if you’re just collecting Pokémon.  Please follow the park rules so everyone can enjoy their experience and get away, right away to your next adventure.

Interested in learning more?  Visit their website at http://www.pokemon.com/us/pokemon-video-games/pokemon-go/

 

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10

Here fishy fishy
By Amy McMillan

This weekend is Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekend for the summer.  That means you don’t have to have a fishing license to bait a hook, drop a line and test your skills by reeling in your next fish story.  The Genesee County Parks has countless fishing holes, picturesque shore lines and five public boat launches with several other canoe launches, so you’re sure to find a great spot to enjoy this weekend.

Looking for ideas?  Consider putting your boat in at Walleye Pike Boat launch or staking a piece of shore on Holloway Reservoir.  The Thursday before Memorial Day, DNR Fisheries completed the summer fisheries survey of Holloway Reservoir.  They captured 1,217 fish with the following distribution.

§  342 channel catfish averaging 16.8 inches

§  226 smallmouth bass averaging 11.2 inches (25 were > 14 inches)

§  113 black crappie averaging 10.1 inches

§  53 walleye averaging 12.4 inches (9 were > 15 inches a 3 fish at 26 inches)

§  44 bluegill averaging 7.9 inches

DNR Fisheries will return to Holloway Reservoir in August to conduct habitat sampling which includes oxygen and temperature profiles of the lake, water samples for measurements of productivity. 

They return again in late September for annual electrofishing for juvenile walleye.

Their quick summary was that “Holloway Reservoir continues to produce an excellent recreational fishery.  Channel catfish remain abundant.  Some excellent black crappie and smallmouth bass.  Walleye continue to be an important component of the fishery and there are some big ones out there.  Bluegill are not overly abundant but if you get into them, they are of excellent size”. 

We also have several fishing programs taking place this weekend.  Take the kids out to Buell Lake on Saturday for the Kids Fishing Club from 9-11am.  Then bring the whole family back on Sunday for Hooked on Fishing and learn the fishing basics.  Then of course you can enter the Catfish for a Cause Fishing Tournament on Sunday, June 12, starting at 6am.  This is the first year we will be holding this FREE tournament on Mott Lake, and all ages and abilities are welcome to compete for prizes and bragging rights.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, please familiarize yourself with the DNR size regulations and limits for each species, because all Michigan DNR rules and regulations still apply.  Pack a lunch, grab your pole and get away right away to a fishing hole near you! 

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27

Make This Your Family's Best Summer Ever!
By Amy McMillan

Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer in the Genesee County Parks! Come explore 11,000 acres of spectacular terrain and enjoy months of warm-weather activities for all ages and abilities that will peak your curiosity, inspire your creativity, and support healthy living!

It’s easy to get in shape and stay that way with miles of walking and biking trails, state-of-the-art playground equipment, launches for boats and kayaks, an 18-basket disc golf course, and clean swimming beaches. And they’re all an easy drive from anyplace in Genesee County

The sun is strongest in June, so slather on the sunscreen and head to Clover Beach on Byram Lake in Linden County Park, Buttercup Beach on Holloway Reservoir or to Bluebell Beach on Mott Lake where children under the age of 12 can play on the fully accessible splash pad! If camping is your choice for family fun, reserve some getaway-time at Wolverine Campground. Campsites are tucked in the cool shade of a pine forest along the north shore of the Holloway Reservoir, just a quick stroll from Buttercup Beach and a boat launch

Summertime and picnics go hand-in-hand, and you’ll find picnic tables and grills in some of the most picturesque areas in the Parks. For large gatherings and protection from the weather, consider renting one of the new or historic park pavilions.This summer, we’re offering more than 1,000 programs in the Parks so you can learn about everything from frogs and turtles to growing your own food and fun exercise classes in the great outdoors. What’s even better is that 85% of them are FREE to attend! Musical events and live theater, guided walks and hands-on projects will connect you to nature in meaningful ways and help make this your family’s best summer ever.

 

Our Family Fun Guide is your passport to adventure. It has descriptions of ALL our activities, and you can download it right here. You can also pick up a copy at For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum, Crossroads Village, Wolverine Campground, our boat launches or the Genesee County Parks offices at 5045 Stanley Road in Flint

This summer, turn off the electronics, gather up your family, and get away right away to fresh air and fun in your 21 Genesee County Parks!  

 

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15

Signs of Spring
By Amy McMillan

If the return of robins is the first true sign of Spring in Michigan, the return of potholes may be the second. Just like streets, roads, and parking lots everywhere in our fair state, potholes and puddles are “springing” up on Genesee County Parks’ gravel roads and in parking lots throughout our entire 11,000 acres.  These conditions make for a wet, bumpy, muddy, ride through your favorite Genesee County Parks.

Our skilled, hardworking mechanic team has our grading equipment tuned and ready to hit our park roads beginning April 15. All we need is a little cooperation from Mother Nature, which means reasonably dry roads and a dry forecast for 4 or 5 days to allow the freshly-graded surfaces to become hard packed so they can shed water instead of becoming an even muddier mess.

We appreciate your patience.  And, if you have an extra minute or two to think sunny, warm thoughts, we’d appreciate that, too. 

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8

New Study Proves Being Active Outdoors is Good for Your Physical and Mental Health
By Amy McMillan

 Even though there’s still white snow on the ground in April, I know that Spring is on its way.  That means warmer weather is right around the corner and time again for some of my favorite activities.

Being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, listening to the birds and frogs, smelling freshly mowed grass, walking under the trees along Mott Lake, or paddling my kayak on the Flint river is my go-to cure for pretty much whatever everyday life trials and tribulations are making my head hurt.  It’s not so much that being outside makes problems disappear; it just clears my head and makes it easier to cope.  This, in turn, makes me a lot more fun to be around!  

Spending time in nature is the opposite of a vicious cycle; being in nature is a virtuous cycle.  And you don’t have to just take my word for it.  A new study proves it.  Being in nature actually changes our brains and makes us happier.  That means being active in nature is good for both your physical and mental health.  And, in Genesee County, we are lucky to have 11,000 acres of happiness in the form of your Genesee County Parks -- phenomenal natural resources right outside your door! 

Get away, right away to your Genesee County Parks.  Your brain will be glad you did.

 

Amy M. McMillan, Director

Genesee County Parks & Recreation Commission

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10

Planning and Support for a Successful Trail System
By Amy McMillan

                                                                                                                                                           

In a 2014 survey, Genesee County residents rated trails for walking, running, and biking as their top priority for improvements to Genesee County Parks.  

A great trail system takes a lot of planning and it takes a big, whopping load of money.  Lucky for us, the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission has stepped up to the plate to develop a comprehensive non-motorized trail plan.  With a great plan in place, and a couple of successful new trail projects  under our belts  we’ve set our sights on securing grants to help get the rest of those trails built. 

At the end of this month, Genesee County Parks will submit a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application to the Department of Natural Resources requesting $300,000 to match over $420,000 in local Transportation Assistance Program grants to build a 3.1 mile section of trail that begins at our office and runs near the river and through the woods of the Genesee Recreation Area to Irish Road, the entrance to Richfield County Park, the Irish Road Fishing Site and Goldenrod Disc Golf Course.  To the west, the trail will connect to the Bluegill Bike Path, which in turn connects to the Stepping Stone Falls Trail, the Bluebell Beach Trail, and the Flint River Trail.

Showing public support is one of the really important parts of any successful grant request, which is where you can be a big, huge help.  And, by public support, we mean letters.  Lots and lots of letters advocating for the approval of the grant request that we can include with our grant application.

We know that the hardest part of writing a letter of support is getting started. Just click here to view an example of a support letter and feel free use any or all of it to help get you started. Or, write your own personalized letter of support, and return the letter to me at the address below, drop it off at our office, fax it or email it to me by March 28, 2016 and I will include your support letter in our grant application.  WIth your support we can make this trail a reality!  

 

 

Amy M. McMillan, Director

Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission 

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