School’s out for summer: fun activities for kids

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

The final bell has rung and students of all ages have rushed out the door to greet the warm summer season.

There are plenty of fun outdoor activities to do while enjoying Michigan’s lush foliage from now through September that can be great for kids of all ages and their families.

Here are some entertaining activities to keep healthy and energized during summer break:

MNA members and stewards gather at the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County to take pictures. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

MNA members and stewards gather at the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County to take pictures. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Plan your visit to an MNA sanctuary near you

MNA has over 170 nature sanctuaries in both peninsulas throughout the Great Lakes State. Each sanctuary is unique with its own type of habitat and fauna. Visiting a sanctuary is a great way to explore Michigan’s nature and learn about native plants and animals. There are also several opportunities to volunteer to preserve native plants and animals with the upcoming volunteer days in different sanctuaries.

When planning your visit to an MNA nature sanctuary remember that only foot travel is permitted so leave bikes and motorized vehicles at home. Remember to be respectful of the plants in the sanctuary and do not pull plants or collect seeds. Also remember to stay on trails and, if guided by a steward, remain close. More detailed information about sanctuary visitation policies can be found here.

Find out about upcoming events here. Visitors may also bring cameras and take photos but are asked to be aware to not accidentally harm plants or animals. Here’s your chance to showcase those photography skills and enter the MNA photo contest, submissions due August 1.

A view of Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark.

A view of Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark.

Visit parks

Michigan has many local parks which can provide an array of fun activities. For those living in the metro-Detroit area, Huron-Clinton Metroparks offer several opportunities to get out and have fun. One notable park is Kensington Metropark, located in Milford Township. Kensington offers nature trails, a biking/walking 8-mile loop, play-scapes, a farm center, boating, golfing, swimming and water slides. Click here for more details on pricing and permit fees.

For a statewide searchable listing of parks across Michigan, check out the Pure Michigan website.

Join an outdoor recreational sports team

For something fun to commit to, joining a sports team can be fun and beneficial for health. Baseball, softball, soccer and other outdoor sports might be offered in summer leagues locally. Check local websites to find out more information. Arranging just-for-fun groups to play in parks or other public areas can be fun too.

Go for a swim

Sometimes the only way to beat the heat is to take a dip. Michigan offers many lakes and public pools for residents to cool off in the hot summer season. Making a visit to one of the Great Lakes is also fun for the whole family. Be sure you check for open public beach spots. Also take note of beaches with or without lifeguards. Make sure to take proper precautions like water-wings and supervision for small children. Check out Pure Michigan’s guide for the Great Lakes here.

Explore Michigan’s history

The coast of Mackinac Island, a motor-vehicle-free spot. Photo courtesy of missionpoint.com.

The coast of Mackinac Island, a motor-vehicle-free spot. Photo courtesy of missionpoint.com.

There are many different parts of Michigan with rich histories and stories behind them. Planning a visit to local areas or museums can be fun and educational. Here are some fun, popular places to check out:

On your visit to any lake, park or nature sanctuary make sure you abide by their individual rules and respect the nature around you.

 

Droughts, natural gas flaring cuts, insect art: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

 

Drought in the southwest. Photo by Mark Henle courtesy of the Guardian.

Drought in the southwest. Photo by Mark Henle courtesy of the Guardian.

US drought to deplete Lake Mead to levels not seen since 1930s (The Guardian): Federal water managers said the drought in the southwest will drop water levels below 1,082 feet. Officials from the US Bureau of Reclamation said water obligations would be met for at least the next year with no shortages and supply will continue to be monitored.

When beliefs and facts collide (New York Times): Americans continue to stay divided in their belief of theory on how the earth was created, global warming and other issues. Surveys have concluded that many Americans don’t know all of the facts.

Natural gas flaring in North Dakota to be significantly reduced by 2020 (Huffington Post): North Dakota’s booming oil industry will face rigid restrictions in attempt to reduce flame waste byproducts from the industry by 2020. Because of the fast pace of oil drilling, much natural gas is burned off rather than given to pipelines and processing facilities who can’t keep up.

 

"Artistic endeavors of leaf cutter bees" Photo by Chris Worden courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

“Artistic endeavors of leaf cutter bees” Photo by Chris Worden courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Insect art: competition sheds new light on garden damage (Great Lakes Echo): Experts from the Canadian Pollination Initiative and the University of Guelph teamed up to start an art contest that brings a new perspective to insect-eaten plants. Their aim is turn frustration into pride — feelings that are all too familiar when gardeners come across holey plants and leaves among other beauties.

Climate change will alter fire patterns, push caribou herds around (Conservation Magazine): Increasing heat and drought have brought on more wildfires, which have been connected to the habitat of the caribou. Although wildfires may mean less trees, the trees are not what’s important to caribou; the lichens growing on them are. These lichens are what caribou subsist on and wildfires are burning them away.

MNA Volunteer Days: Red Cedar River Plant Preserve

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

The Red Cedar River Plant Preserve is more than just a 10-acre sanctuary in Williamston, Michigan, and the only one in Ingham County. This sanctuary is one of five MNA sanctuaries within the boundaries of a city and is close to the MNA’s former headquarters.

Usually land within cities has been far too degraded for MNA to claim as a sanctuary, but because of the floodplains within the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve, this area has surprisingly maintained its natural character so close to an urban area. This sanctuary was historically known as the Williamston Floodplain.

The sanctuary consists of floodplains and wetlands because it is so close to the Red Cedar River. There are also marshy and swamp-like areas as well.

These habitats are home to plant-life like marsh marigold, skunk cabbage and jewelweed. Some types of trees that grow on the floodplain ridge are black cherry and red oak. The ridge is welcoming to visitors, giving them a place to walk and explore during spring flooding season.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

This sanctuary is one of the few that MNA has built a boardwalk on and it is one of the longest and the only with an observation deck included in its design.

The area was donated in 2005 by Doug and Darlene Price, who with the help of engineer David Geyer have worked on protecting important parts of the habitat. MNA collaborated with them to change the future plans of the development of uplands in order to preserve the area within the sanctuary.

The redevelopment of the sanctuary’s boardwalk will help protect the floodplain. The old design could not withstand the severe flooding so MNA has organized volunteer days to rebuild the boardwalk with a design engineered to allow it to be more stable and provide more access to the sanctuary. About 40 feet of the boardwalk must be built this year of a total of 150 feet, and MNA is enlisting all the help it can get.

MNA extends its gratitude to engineers Jim Rossman  and Paul Rice for volunteering their time to develop the design, cost estimates and construction phases, and stewards Jim and Besty Pifer who assisted in the planning process.

Upcoming Volunteer Days:

  • Thursday, July 10 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, July 24 at 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday, August 20 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 11 at 10 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 18 at 10 a.m.

Please contact Rachel Maranto for more information about the project and volunteer days at rmaranto@michigannature.org.

Ancient lakes, Grayling fish hatchery, confounded moths: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Turtle River in eastern North Dakota, a remnant of glaciers once covering the area. Photo by Eric Freedman courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Turtle River in eastern North Dakota, a remnant of glaciers once covering the area and Lake Agassiz. Photo by Eric Freedman courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Every week, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Quick, name the greatest of Great Lakes (Great Lakes Echo): Unbeknownst to many Americans, the greatest of lakes that once existed was in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. This lake, known as Lake Agassiz, existed 13,000 years ago and was larger than the five current Great Lakes put together.

Michigan allows Grayling fish hatchery despite angler concerns (Detroit Free Press): On Tuesday a permit was issued to a Grayling fish hatchery to set up on Tuesday via the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. This permit proceeded despite anglers’ concern of harm to the Au Sable River.

Photo by Kiley Riffell courtesy of the New York TImes.

Photo by Kiley Riffell courtesy of the New York TImes.

City smells confound flower-seeking moths (New York Times):  A new study finds that tobacco hornworm moths which depend on nectar for energy have been adversely affected by fuel exhaust. The exhaust along with other air-pollutants have inhibited the moth from being able to smell flowers, making it difficult to find the nectar they need to survive.

Jones with rhinoceros. Photo via Facebook.

Jones with rhinoceros. Photo via Facebook.

Meet Kendall Jones the Texan cheerleader whose exotic animal hunts outraged the internet (Huffington Post): There has been a large outcry from many activists concerning photos posted by Kendall Jones on Facebook with dead or tranquilized endangered animals. Jones claims her activities are in benefit of these endangered animals, for example posing next to an unconscious rhinoceros in order to place a microchip in it for veterinary tracking purposes.

Duke Energy sued in North Carolina over river-polluting coal plants (Huffington Post): An environmental group announced its plans to sue Duke Energy over a coal ash spill at three plants along rivers in North Carolina.  The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a motion of intent on Tuesday under the federal Clean Water Act.