The Great Outdoors

Get out and explore the Huron-Clinton Metroparks

ive counties, 25,000 acres of land and 9 million annual visitors. Those are the key figures George Phifer, executive director of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks regional park system, touts to southeast Michigan residents seeking fun yet affordable outdoor activity.

Phifer, who once served as captain of the Pontiac Police Department and chief of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks’ police department, was appointed to his current role last year. Since then, he has made it a priority to expand the parks’ community-friendly programming.

“I felt it was important in terms of community outreach to extend this opportunity to those who are not as privileged as others,” says Phfier, who is the first black director of the system.

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This summer, for example, youth who may not have had the opportunity otherwise experienced a full-day trip at no cost at the parks – there are 13 of them spread across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston counties. The system has ramped up special events for seniors and is reaching out into communities of color to boost awareness of all it has to offer.

Summer is usually busiest for the parks, many known for their beaches and water parks. As the leaves turn for fall, Phifer calls attention to walking, hiking and cycling trails, hayrides and animal farms.

Some of the parks are also seeing new construction. Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township will have new zip lines between trees coming soon, while older buildings in other parks are under study for repurposing.

“People spend a lot of money going outside the state and going places – where you can spend $35 (for an annual pass) at the Metroparks,” Phifer says.

More information at metroparks.com.

READY TO EXPLORE?

Here are four of our top picks for being one with the outdoors this fall and winter.

Delhi Metropark

Where? 3902 E. Delhi Road in Ann Arbor

What to do? Take the kids to an adventure play ship and other outdoor equipment and look out for majestic birds and other wildlife.

Lower Huron Metropark

Where? 40151 E. Huron River Drive in Belleville

What to do? Bring your golf buddies to the course till late October, enjoy a nature hike along the trails and gear up for cross-country skiing later this year.

Wolcott Mill Metropark

Where? 65775 Wolcott Road in Ray Township

What to do? Step back in time by visiting the historic grain mill and barn museum, see a dairy farm (pet the cows!), and ride a horse-drawn wagon through crop fields.

Huron Meadows Metropark

Where? 8765 Hammel Road in Brighton

What to do? Go fishing along Maltby Lake, enjoy a variety of winter sports or plan a quiet picnic among natural settings.

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