Report from the Park: Bay City State Recreation Area

“Can we please stay another night?” – the Flint group on the last day of our campout

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Parks in Focus recently wrapped up its final trip of the summer taking our first-ever Flint participants on a weekend adventure of camping, hiking, fishing, exploring and photo-taking at Bay City State Recreation Area. The excursion was the culmination of a series of day trips that occurred throughout July and August that were designed to introduce participants to area parks and public lands in and around Bay, Genesee, Saginaw and Shiawassee Counties.

Here’s the rundown of the weekend’s activities and highlights:

The participants arrived at the group campsite late Friday afternoon and immediately put their newly acquired tent-assembling skills to the test. After getting settled into camp, we had a visit with Mike Barker, the park ranger at Bay City. He welcomed us to the park, told us a bit about the sites we would be visiting and discussed some of the employment opportunities available through Michigan State Parks. After his introduction, we had our first cookout and then took some time to explore the area around our campsite before our first campfire. At the campfire, the participants and staff took turns sharing their excitement about the weekend’s activities and learned the proper way to toast (or is it roast?) marshmallows.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, the crew went over to the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center. In addition to engaging in some of the Center’s interactive exhibits, we also made time to peruse through their new photo gallery – displaying photos entered in the area’s annual photo contest (a contest that many of our participants look forward to participating in next year).

Next, we split up into groups to spend some time fishing in the lagoon and exploring the Lagoon Nature Trail. Although the fish really weren’t biting, the participants still enjoyed sitting on the fishing pier and casting their lines (many for the first time). We did have one lucky angler who reeled in her first fish: a yellow perch (congrats, Chelsea!). The mile-long hike around the lagoon was also another highlight. The trail provided a number of awesome subjects including squirrels, chipmunks, mute swans, great blue herons, double-crested cormorants, ring-billed gulls and an abundant assortment of wildflowers. The trail also took us out to get our first views of Saginaw Bay. A few minutes before we wrapped up our lagoon hike and fishing, we were ‘refreshed’ by a brief rainstorm.

We came back to the campsite that afternoon to relax for a few minutes before preparing an awesome dinner of hamburgs, hotdogs, fresh watermelon and an assortment of salads. A few of the boys used their spare time to look for frogs, toads and other critters around our campsite. In about 20-minutes, they had caught 40 frogs and toads (3 wood frogs and 37 American toads to be exact) and 1 garter snake just around the perimeter of our campsite. This was quite an impressive catch considering at least that many more got away from the new group of enthusiastic herpetologists. It also became clear how the chorus of toads we had heard the night before could get so loud!

After dinner, we departed for an evening hike on the Andersen Trail out to Tobico Marsh. We stopped along a few of the viewing decks to identify wildflowers and photograph the sunset over the marsh. We hiked back to the vans in the dark – also a first for all of the participants – as we listened to the ‘wild’ sounds of the night come alive as the human-dominated sounds of the daytime began to fade. We reminisced about the day’s events at our last campfire and also learned the important lesson that: s’mores over the campfire taste a lot better than those made in a microwave.

After breakfast on Sunday morning, we hopped in the vans and drove over to the entrance of Bay City State Recreation Area for some group shots. Then, we ventured over to Bay City’s new spray park (which just opened a few days prior) to spend some time goofing around. After we tore down camp and had our final lunch, we said our goodbyes and then began our short-drive home. The last Parks in Focus trip of the summer had come to an end…

Lots of Thanks!
There are a number of people we would like to recognize for making our first Parks in Focus: Flint program possible. First off, huge thanks go out to our newest partners: University Outreach at the University of Michigan-Flint (for initiating and funding this pilot program) and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint (for providing an awesome set of participants and staff). We’d also like to thank Carl Lindell and Michigan State Parks for loaning us camping equipment and providing other logistical assistance during our events as well as REI Michigan for their continued support of our Parks in Focus efforts in the Great Lakes State.

Finally, thank you so much to our awesome staff: Dawn Reinhold (’00 & ’01 Udall alum), Chad Burton (volunteer from MSU), Danielle Gartner and Lindsay Stoddard (University Outreach) as well as Justin Walton and Tauzzari Robinson (Flint BGC). It’s been an awesome first-year and we look forward to continuing our partnership!

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