ROCKPORT - A group of supporters of the newly designated state recreation area and the Department of Natural Resources are planning a grand opening for the reinvention of the former Rockport Property.
Members of Friends of Rockport/Besser Natural Area have planned a celebration of the creation of Rockport State Recreation Area by the DNR, starting with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning. On Saturday, the friends group will join the DNR and other organizations to host a grand opening celebration filled with events to give the public a taste of what the park has to offer.
"The whole intent of the weekend is the grand opening and dedication of the Rockport Recreation Area," Eric Ostrander, DNR unit supervisor for Harrisville and Negwegon state parks, said. He's now supervisor for Rockport as well.
A recreation passport is required to visit Rockport Recreation Area, according to the DNR.
Festivities kick off Friday morning at 9:30 a.m., when DNR Director Rodney Stokes, along with representatives of the department's many divisions, will preside over a ribbon cutting, Ostrander said. The public is invited, along with a number of state and local government officials and members of the Negwegon, Thompson's Harbor and Rockport Committee.
A light breakfast will be available that morning, Ostrander said.
For those looking to get outside and try something new, the friends group and the DNR have a wide variety of events planned for Saturday, including kayaking and fishing demonstrations, Carol Dodge Grochowski, Friends of Rockport president, said. The day's events begin at 10 a.m. and are set to run until 3 p.m.
"It's just kind of to introduce the park to people," she said. "If they just have time to breeze through, maybe see what's available out there, and when they have time to check things out further, maybe they can do that."
Events are planned for both Rockport, near the state boat launch on Rockport Road, and Besser Natural Area, located off East Grand Lake Road, Ostrander said. Times for the events are still being worked out, but the DNR hopes to have pamphlets available at the recreation area on Saturday.
Naturalists, explorer guides and wildlife enthusiasts will lead programs about birds, fossils and the coastal habitats found within the Rockport property, Ostrander said. Along with local history buffs who will answer questions about Rockport's past, DNR staff will be on hand to discuss the property's future.
"Rockport is set to be more of a developed recreation area, as opposed to Negwegon State Park and Thompson's Harbor State Park," Ostrander said.
A group of sinkholes within the property are another popular destination, and the Friends of Rockport are planning a wagon ride to get people most of the way there, Grochowski said.
Mike Theut will also be giving boat tours around nearby Middle Island for a reduced price, giving riders a glimpse of the island's lighthouse, Grochowski said.
Those who come to the grand opening Saturday will have a chance to satisfy their hunger and help the Friends of Rockport. Friends group members will be helping out in Cooking for a Cause's food wagon, Grochowski said. The nonprofit group lets organizations use their food wagon to raise money, and will provide help as well. Most of the profits will go toward Friends of Rockport.
"It'll kind of be a little fundraiser for us," Grochowski said, adding the group has recently applied for tax-exempt nonprofit status.
Ostrander said he hopes people learn more about the 4,237-acre recreation area.
"We may have people in the area that have heard of Rockport property, but don't even know what's out there," he said. "This will let them know they now have a state recreation area in their backyard."
The DNR also will provide samples of Pure Michigan Caramel Apple, the official ice cream flavor of Michigan's state parks, Ostrander said.
For more information, Ostrander can be reached at Harrisville State Park at 724-5126, and Grochowski at 379-2701.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.