state parks

Here are 10 West Michigan trails to explore this fall

Sep 17, 2014
Hiking in Seidman Park in December of 2012.
Steven Depolo / Flickr

The days are getting shorter, but don't resign yourself to settling in for a long, lazy season inside.

One of Grand Rapids' greatest assets is the natural beauty that surrounds this mid-size city, with amenities that you won't even find in many big cities. From small pocket parks to epic-sized Lake Michigan, you're never far away from a wooded trail, a mountain bike path, or a gorgeous beach.

As summer turns to fall, Rapid Growth rounded up ten of West Michigan's best hikes, with hidden urban hiking trails mixed in with cross-country paths that lead to the great lake even in the snowiest of months.
 
City hikes
 
Have an hour or an afternoon? Looking for a hike that can happen within the city limits?

Grand Rapids contains more urban paved trails and hidden hikes than we can count. Savvy West Michiganders already know about the bounty of outdoor experiences at Blandford Nature Center, Provin Trails, Meijer Gardens, and the Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve around the city's edges, plus favorites like Riverside Park and Huff Park right in the city.

Here are a few more in-town walks and hikes to get you started.

Friends of the Porkies

Some state lawmakers think there’s too much public land in Michigan.

They don’t like how conservation decisions are made and think the state favors environmental goals over uses like logging and ORV trails.

In November, Governor Snyder announced townships and counties would need to approve projects before the state could buy land with the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

The trust fund has been used to preserve beaches and forests all over the state.

But townships in particular have complained about property being taken off the tax rolls, and the state has not always made the payments it promises in place of some tax revenue.

michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder is considering whether to make some changes to Michigan’s parks.

Last year, the Governor appointed a panel on state parks and outdoor recreation.  Their mission was to come up with a vision for the future of Michigan’s parks and state forests.

Erin McDonough is the executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. She was co-chair of the panel.

Some Detroiters have expressed their displeasure with the Belle Isle plan.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit City Council members led a rally opposing what they call a “state takeover” of Belle Isle Wednesday, saying plans to lease the park to the state amount to stealing a Detroit “jewel.”

State and city officials are in talks to lease the island park to the state, which would integrate it into the state parks system. The plan’s advocates say the state would make much-needed improvements to Belle Isle, while freeing up Detroit dollars for other uses.

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153--167532--,00.html

If you're planning a trip to Michigan's state parks this summer, expect some company.

The parks are on track to break attendance records this year, with more than 25 million visits expected.  

It’s mostly thanks to hot weather, lowers gas prices, and cheaper park passes, says Harold Herta of the Department of Natural Resources.  "We've seen a lot of people coming out to the parks this year that said, I haven't been to a state park in years, and I thought I'd try it out. Especially in the metro-Detroit area."

Bhasker Garudadri / wikimedia commons

A popular state park is reopening near a wildfire that's been burning across more than 30 square miles of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

A Department of Natural Resources spokesman says Upper Falls and related facilities in Tahquamenon Falls State Park have reopened, and the Lower Falls campground is expected to reopen at noon today. The well-known destination for campers was originally closed because of smoke and ash problems. The DNR spokesman says those conditions have cleared up in the park.

The DNR says the blaze known as the Duck Lake Fire began with a lightning strike last week and burned about 34 square miles.

user will_cyclist / Flickr

Promoting winter sports may be a way to attract more tourists to Michigan, and more tourists mean more money. 

“Snow in Michigan is really white gold,” said Mary Dettloff with the Department of Natural Resources.

Snowmobiling is already a huge industry for the state. It attracts people from around the country, and Dettloff says it has an economic impact of more than $1 billion.

Michigan currently has 99 state parks and recreation areas where people can experience the great outdoors and do things like cross-country ski, snow-shoe, and hike. 

State parks also host special workshops and classes. One of the most popular programs is a “make-your-own-snowshoe” workshop. Some state parks also have dog-sled demonstrations and lantern-lit, nighttime skiing and hiking. (For the truly brave there’s a public luge in Muskegon State Park.)

Dettloff said the state has the potential to become a destination for winter sports but she said the state needs to do a better job promoting itself to tourists.