ROCKPORT - A group aimed at promoting Rockport State Recreation Area has planned a day of events on June 22 to introduce people to the park.
The Friends of Rockport/Besser Natural Area organized the day, complete with plenty of outdoor activities that are free to try, President Carol Dodge Grochowski said. It's similar to a grand opening organized by the same group for the park last year, shortly after the Michigan Department of Natural Resources designated what had been known as the Rockport Property as a state recreation area.
"It's to get people out and appreciating the fact that they now have a state recreation area, and see what it is and learn what they can do out there, how they can utilize it and enjoy it," she said.
The day kicks off at Besser Natural Area, accessible off East Grand Lake Road, at 8:30 a.m. with a birding program, Grochowski said. It continues at 10:30 a.m. with a family mountain bike safari to the park's 13 sinkholes, which starts from the parking lot accessed off US-23 via Rockport Road. A second trip will depart at 1 p.m. Unlike most events planned for the day, participants will need to bring their own equipment for the safari.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be classes on fishing, kayaking, geocaching and snorkeling, Grochowski said. Thunder Bay Scuba will donate wetsuits for anyone 48 inches and taller, as well as masks and snorkels. Erin Riopelle of Adventureland Sports will have her kayaks there, and volunteers will teach how to use GPS to locate treasures hidden throughout the park in a sort of high-tech scavenger hunt.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary will be doing free boat inspections as well, Grochowski said.
For the first time this year, there will be a marked trail to the park's sinkholes, Grochowski said. After considerable effort to map the park's trails with GPS, friends group volunteers will work to place actual markers to what's proven to be a popular destination. The sinkholes range in size, depth and accessibility, with the larger appearing more like a pond and reachable by a steep trail.
Mike Theut, son of Middle Island owner Marv, had planned to offer tours of the island and its lighthouse, but had to cancel due to a schedule conflict, Grochowski said.
Cooking for a Cause will be serving food at the recreation area parking lot, Grochowski said. Once the company covers its costs, it'll donate the proceeds to Friends of Rockport.
Participants need a Recreation Passport to get into the recreation area, Grochowski said. Those who don't have one can buy it at the park on Saturday for $11.