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Celebrate your century-old state park system

Michigan state parks are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, and I believe we are blessed to have those wonderful facilities in our state.

Preserving such parks took risk-takers with vision, who, I am guessing, many times faced questions and criticism about their leadership.

Despite that, however, they persevered and turned dreams into reality. You and I are the beneficiaries of their actions and determination.

The state park system provides residents and visitors unique opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and celebrate our state’s heritage and natural resources.

Nowhere is that more evident than Northeast Michigan.

And, ironically enough, I would suggest that, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state park system, why not begin with the 100th state park: Rockport State Recreation Area in Alpena County. Not only does the park have an extensive trail system for hikers and bikers, the old limestone quarry is a treasure-finding area for fossil hunters. The sinkholes in the park draw attention to the unique geology of the region, and the park is an official dark-sky preserve.

If you like Rockport, then there is a chance you enjoy more primitive and undeveloped parks. Again, you are in luck, as two more of my favorites are Negwegon State Park in southern Alpena/northern Alcona counties and Thompson’s Harbor State Park in Presque Isle County.

Negwegon has 10 miles of hiking trails and provides guests with some of the sandiest beaches Lake Huron has to offer. It also is a dark-sky preserve.

Thompson’s Harbor is like a twin to Negwegon, only with more rocks. Even still, sand dunes can be found in this park, as well as the state’s official wildflower, the beautiful dwarf lake iris.

In fact, there is probably more dwarf lake iris in the boundaries of the park than anywhere else in the entire world.

If you enjoy the outdoors, but with perhaps more comfortable facilities, then the P.H. Hoeft State Park, just north of Rogers City, might be more your speed. Great camping facilities, along with sandy Lake Huron shoreline, make that park a popular one in the summer months.

Likewise, the Harrisville State Park is another nice park with modern camping facilities. It was built in 1921, making it one of the state’s oldest state parks. Like the others in the region, it also has a sandy beach area and trails through beautiful stands of pine and cedar.

From natural beauty to state history. From ancient petroglyphs to a luge track, Michigan’s state parks offer a wide variety of experiences and enjoyment.

This year, I am going to make it a personal goal to visit several new state parks. I also hope to visit other favorites that I have not been to for awhile.

The way I see it, with a state park system as beautiful as ours, you and I would be foolish not to make good use of it.

Enjoy.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.