SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Stony Creek Metropark Nature Center’s spur-of-the-moment programming, founded about three years ago, kick-started the new year with a snowshoes and survival program Feb. 7.
Park interpreters hope to host a spontaneous program once a month for events that the interpreters cannot plan for a certain time and day, such as salamander migration and frog mating in the spring.
“We can’t always anticipate the unusual, and our hope is that we can be paying attention to what is happening in the natural world,” said park interpreter Charlie Shelton, who led the snowshoes and survival program. “If it’s unusual and time-sensitive, we like to be able to share it with the public.”
He said that besides the frog and salamander programs, he hopes to engage in an archaeological dig in the summer in search of ancient artifacts and a walking tour of the island located near the boat rental.
A few days — or sometimes hours — before a specific program, patrons will receive an email about the next spur-of-the-moment event, such as the snowshoes and survival program.
Brandon Fopiu and his fiancée, Jennifer Murray, joined about a dozen others at the latest program. Fopiu said he got a text and call from Murray, who is on the mailing list, about three or four hours before the event.
“We had to have quick communication and push our dinner back,” he said. “I had never (walked on snowshoes) before. It was exciting. I experienced something I would otherwise never be able to do.”
Because of the thick blanket of snow, the group was allowed in areas of protected habitat that Shelton said are off-limits to patrons 10 months out of the year, which they reached treading across a frozen pond.
Fopiu added that he was happy that neither he nor Murray lost a snowshoe, as several others in the group had, although the couple turned back early due to Fopiu’s inappropriate boot choice.
“I don’t have the outdoor gear (that the nature center staff has). I got to the point where I didn’t want to get frostbite or anything,” Fopiu said. “But next time, we will definitely be there.”
Temperatures did fall below zero, but program leaders warned participants to come prepared. They also warmed up through the sheer physical exertion of snowshoeing across the frozen pond and over a hilly portion of the park.
Shelton and park interpreter Aaron Yilmaz also demonstrated how to make a fire out of flint, steel, kindling, sticks and branches gathered from the park; made a wind shelter from a giant tarp; and shared hot chocolate.
To get an email when the Stony Creek Metropark Nature Center conducts its next spur-of-the-moment program, call (586) 781-9113. For more information visit www.metroparks.com/Stony-Creek-Metropark.