Rockport Recreation Day next weekend

ROCKPORT – Come for the bats, stay for the birding, biking, hiking, kayaking and other activities at Rockport State Recreation Area on June 28.

The Friends of Rockport State Recreation Area have planned another day of fun, both to show off the many activities available at the 4,200-acre park and to dedicate two recently improved bat hibernacula there. Friends group President Carol Dodge Grochowski said that along with the usual sporting and wildlife-related activities, there are two different bat presentations planned as well.

“It’s going to be a great fun day, I really hope everybody takes the opportunity to get out and see what we’re all about,” she said.

The event is free, but those coming to Rockport or Besser Natural Area need a recreation passport, Grochowski said. They’ll be sold at the event near the boat launch and can be bought there year-round on a self-serve basis.

On June 27, Eastern Michigan University professor Allen Kurta will talk about Michigan’s bats, their unique features and where they’re found in the state, Grochowski said. That’s at 7 p.m. in Room 101 of Alpena Community College’s Natural Resources Building, located behind the college’s main buildings north of Johnson Street. Kurta studies bats all around the state and has crawled through caves, mine shafts and the new hibernacula at Rockport to document them.

More bats are in store on June 28 starting at 11 a.m. near Rockport’s boat launch with the official dedication of the park’s bat hibernacula, Department of Natural Resources Unit Supervisor Eric Ostrander said. The DNR and other project partners will talk about the project, built inside two abandoned surge tunnels that served a long-defunct quarry operation where the park is now located. They’ll be joined by Organization for Bat Conservation Director Rob Mies, who will give another presentation on bats.

Mies will bring live bats on June 28, and has presented before on several TV shows, Grochowski said. She believes anyone who attends will leave with an appreciation of the winged mammals, and the hibernacula at Rockport could prove to be a crucial battleground in the fight against White Nose Syndrome.

“If nothing else, you definitely have to come and see the bat program,” she said.

Most of the events kick off on 10 a.m. on June 28, but early risers can meet birding expert Bill Grigg at Besser Natural Area at 8:30 a.m., located off of East Grand Lake Road east of the Presque Isle Township Hall. Grigg is a passionate birder with a vast knowledge of their many species, especially those that live in and migrate through Northeast Michigan.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be organized fishing, geocaching and kayaking, Grochowski said. Kayak rental business owner Erin Riopelle will be showing people how to maneuver in the boats, with all the necessary equipment provided. DNR explorer guides will teach a fishing workshop, with bait and poles available for use, and a friends member will show people how to use GPS to locate geocaches throughout the park.

Cookin’ for a Cause will sell food near the event tent, and they’ll feed a group of Boys & Girls Club of Alpena Youth Volunteer Corps members who will help with the event, Grochowski said.

At 1 p.m., there’s a mountain bike safari heading out to the park’s various sinkholes. They’ll head past the gravel heap and bat hibernacula to a lookout atop a pile of quarry overburden, through the quarry and out to the sinkholes. Bring your own bike, and helmets and bottles of water are suggested.

There will be fossil, Rockport history and Michigan fisheries displays throughout the day in a tent near the Rockport boat launch, Grochowski said. They’re courtesy of friends group members and a number of partners, including the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.

Other opportunities abound, including hiking the park’s numerous trails, snorkeling the shipwreck near Besser Natural Area and hunting for Devonian-era fossils in the old quarry, Grochowski said.

“Rockport State Recreation Area is a diamond in the rough, and I think as we move along in taking this diamond and polishing it up, we’re going to have something so very special here,” she said.

For more information, call Harrisville State Park at 724-5126.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.