For anyone wanting a free pass to enjoy the great outdoors at more than 100 Michigan parks, the first step is as easy as a trip to your local library.
The Bloomfield Township Public Library and the Baldwin Public Library are among nearly 500 libraries throughout Michigan now offering the Michigan Big Green Gym Pass.
Previously known as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Park and Read Program, the Big Green Gym is now a partnership with the Michigan Recreation and Park Association, the DNR and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as a way for everyone to get outside and get healthy this summer. The passes allow one vehicle into a state park or recreation area, or the KLR Splashpad in Oxford Township for one day, and are valid for seven days from checkout.
MPRA spokeswoman Devon Bradley said Michigan parks now offer much more than just hiking trails; visitors can experience a plethora of free programs, from yoga to kayaking, complete with any necessary gear and certified instruction.
“Outdoor exploration and play is just as important as reading and writing for a child’s early development,” she said.
“It really fosters that love of nature and the outdoors from the beginning, and the Michigan Big Green Gym passes highlight all the amenities that our state parks have to offer not only families, but peoples of all ages.”
A number of parks are also offering Recreation 101 courses, a series of intro-to classes taught by DNR staff or expert volunteers from organizations, guide services and outfitters, all for no charge to the DNR or participants. Topics include activities such as kayaking, archery, survival skills, hiking, storytelling, sand sculpting, kite making, golfing, windsurfing and paddle boarding.
“The intro classes are really great for people who have always wanted to try those activities, but didn’t know how or didn’t have the skills,” she said.
“It helps them feel better and more confident about tackling a new adventure on their own.”
There are eight state parks/recreation areas in Oakland County alone — Seven Lakes State Park, Holly Recreation Area, Ortonville Recreation Area, Bald Mountain Recreation Area, Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, Dodge #4 State Park, Proud Lake Recreation Area, Highland Recreation Area — and 19 total in southeastern Michigan.
BTPL Associate Library Director Carol Mueller said the Park and Read program was immensely popular in past years, and she anticipates that the Big Green Gym passes will do just as well.
“This is a little different twist because it offers different programs related to being outdoors and exercising, but so far, the passes are very popular at our library,” she said.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to visit our wonderful parks, grab a book, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the outdoors and all of the wonderful resources in our area.”
Passes are available at BTPL and the Baldwin Public Library through Oct. 1.
For a full list of participating libraries and parks, visit www.mrpaonline.org under the Michigan Green Gym section.
To view the full schedule and location of Recreation 101 programs, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on the Camping and Recreation tab at the left. Beneath that, click on GO-Get Outdoors, and Recreation 101.
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