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

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

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.


MNA and The Nature Conservancy to host hikes at Echo Lake

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A view of Echo Lake. Photo by Andrew Bacon via MNA archives.

A view of Echo Lake. Photo by Andrew Bacon via MNA archives.

MNA in coordination with The Nature Conservancy will be hosting themed hikes throughout the summer at the Echo Lake Nature Preserve.

The hikes will be a series of events throughout the summer called Saturdays at Echo Lake. The events are free and open to the public.

Echo Lake Nature Preserve is a 480-acre sanctuary located in Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula.  The preserve is home to several diverse habitats. It is known for its 20-acre lake which is surrounded by mountains, bedrocks, wetlands, three small high-rock ponds, creeks and mix of deciduous and coniferous forest.

While there, visitors can expect to see incredible views while hiking on rocks and bluffs from the highest points of the bedrock areas. Some sights include: Hogsback Mountain, Little Presque Isle and Lake Superior. There will also be several migratory birds to look out for who only appear for the warm seasons in Michigan. The preserve has been relatively untouched for most its existence, boasting a high water quality and dense wooded areas which provide protection for large mammals in the winter season.

MNA has worked with The Nature Conservancy for several years helping with stewardship services to help maintain the land and preserve its natural heritage. MNA has a conservation easement over the property which helps provide it with more levels of conservation protection. The Nature Conservancy has also partnered with several other organizations and departments on the conservation of the preservation.

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Guests will meet at Moosewood Nature Center to carpool to the hikes. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Andrea at (906) 225-0399 ext. 4019 or

Parking lots, 20-pound fish and a Michigan trailblazer: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Each Friday, MNA highlights environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are five of this week’s stories on nature and the environment:

Renovations to a parking lot near Lake St. Clair will help cut down on pollution in the lake. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Huge ‘green’ parking lot will reduce Lake St. Clair pollution (Macomb Daily): Macomb County officials have wrestled with the pollution problems in Lake St. Clair for 20 years and concluded that a major cause of this pollution is rainwater that runs off streets and parking lots into the lake. A $3.3 million project to substantially alter a 42-acre parking lot, located within 100 feet of Lake St. Clair, will break ground on May 9 and make the parking lot more environmentally friendly. Half of the parking lot will be reconstructed and will combine parking spaces with ponds, swales, grassy areas, trees and shrubs. Stormwater will be diverted into those areas, rather than into the lake. The other half of the lot will receive a new “seal coat” on the asphalt.

20 Pounds? Not Too Bad, for an Extinct Fish (The New York Times): Last year, fisherman Matt Ceccarelli caught and released a 24-pound Lahontan cutthroat trout—a trout once believed to have gone extinct. The Lahontan cutthroat trout has been the focus of an “intense and improbable” federal and tribal effort to restore it to its home waters at Pyramid Lake in Nevada after the lake’s strain was declared extinct in the mid-1940s. In 2006, federal officials began stocking Pyramid Lake with Pilot Peak cutthroats, which have an exact DNA match to the cutthroats once found in Pyramid Lake. The fish is making an apparent comeback—since November, dozens of anglers have reported catching cutthroats.

Wet spring offers some relief for low Great Lakes levels, experts say (The Detroit News): The wet weather Michigan’s been having may boost water levels in the Great Lakes, but experts are uncertain by how much the levels will rise or how long it will last. Runoff from melting snow and rain showers typically causes the lake levels to rise in the spring, and Lakes Michigan and Huron have risen 6 inches this month. However, Keith Kompoltowicz from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that the lakes need several more wet winters and springs to return to their normal levels.

Veteran hopes to boost economy, fitness by blazing Michigan trail (Great Lakes Echo): Chris Hillier of Taylor, Mich., was recognized Thursday as a nominee for the Governor’s Fitness Award for Veteran of the Year. This award honors a military veteran who goes “above and beyond” to promote healthy lifestyles in the state. Hillier has hiked more than 6,000 miles since 2011, mostly across Michigan, and is starting a 924-mile hike that will take him from Belle Isle in Southeast Michigan to Ironwood in the Western Upper Peninsula. This route was proposed by Gov. Snyder last November and “connects existing pathways with new trails to showcase Michigan’s waterways, diverse forests, and unique animals.” This new trail could boost local economies and establish Michigan as the top trail state in the country.

Earth Month: 12 intriguing environmental books (USA TODAY): Wendy Koch, USA TODAY’s environment and energy reporter, shares 12 new books about the environment in celebration of Earth Month.