Madison Heights celebrates the season at Fall Open House

Nature center marks one year under Oakland County Parks and Recreation

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 2, 2013

MADISON HEIGHTS — Fall has its fans. They cherish the blaze of color in the trees, the abundance of doughnuts and apple cider, the crisp chill of the air, and the chance to unwind on hayrides through the woods.

All of this and more will be celebrated as part of the season at Madison Heights’ 17th Fall Open House, from noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6. The event takes place in and around the Red Oaks Nature Center at Suarez Friendship Woods, 30300 Hales, south of 13 Mile between John R and Dequindre, across the street from Red Oaks Waterpark.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Oakland County Parks and Recreation assuming management of the park, leasing it from the city. For the Fall Open House, they’re waiving the parking permit fee. Everything is free, including a doughnut and cup of cider per person.

The whole event is underwritten by private sponsorships, once again led by Mayor Edward Swanson and his wife, Elaine.

“It’s one of our more popular events in the city,” said Kirby Rochester, recreation coordinator for Madison Heights.

The event goes on, rain or shine. The folk band Picks ‘N Sticks will be performing on the back patio of the nature center, moving inside if it starts to rain. Carousel Acres will return with their mobile petting farm, and the Metro Woodcarvers will showcase their carvings and do live demonstrations. And the hayrides will run through all of the trails, picking up and dropping off at the main parking lot.

At press time, the city was also trying to arrange for Home Depot to bring by some of their bughouse and birdhouse kits for the children to assemble.

Oakland County staff will also be on-hand to explain exhibits at the nature center and sign people up for their 2014 park passes, if they wish.

“Overall, it’s been going really well,” said Matt Pardy, recreation specialist for Oakland County, in regard to the county running the nature center. Pardy is the man responsible for both the Red Oaks Nature Center and Red Oaks Waterpark. “We’re still learning and getting things fully implemented here, but we’ve already launched a number of educational programs for all ages.”

This includes Wild Wednesday Night, geared toward younger children. The next one is Oct. 2 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the nature center. The night’s theme will be “Going Batty,” teaching the kids fun facts about bats. The cost is $2 per person.

Then for the adults, there have been numerous programs explaining natural resources. One coming up in November will be called “Sleuthing at Birdfeeders,” and it will teach the basics of setting up a bird-feeding station that’s conducive to common birds in the area.

Another adult program in recent weeks was a presentation on invasive species in backyards and Friendship Woods, such as garlic mustard.

“We’re continuing to expand and develop a more diverse plan,” Pardy said.

While the county has allowed the nature center to stay open more often and offer more programming when the city otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford it, it is the generous donations of residents that have made the Fall Open House possible.

In addition to the Swansons, the other supporters are the Friends of Madison Heights Youth (golden major); the Wildlife Education Foundation (major); City Manager Ben Myers and his wife, Denise (co-sponsor); the GFWC Madison Heights Intermediate Women’s Club (co-sponsor); and donors Jon and Lori Austin, Kathy and Rick Vesprini, City Councilwoman Margene Scott, Hugh and Judith Simpson, and Antoinette Madosky.

Donations are still being accepted, and all extra funds roll over into the nature center’s fund. Checks can be made payable to “City of Madison Heights,” with “2013 Nature Center Open House” on the memo line, and sent to Madison Heights City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile, Madison Heights, MI 48071.

“It’s a great time for the family to come out,” Rochester said. “The kids get to see and learn about the animals and nature. You can take the hayride through the woods, enjoy the fresh air, and see all of the changing colors. And it’s all free — you can’t beat that.”

Madison Heights’ 17th Fall Open House will run from noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Red Oaks Nature Center, 30300 Hales, south of 13 Mile between John R and Dequindre, across the street from Red Oaks Waterpark. Parking and admission is free. For more information, call the Red Oaks Nature Center at (248) 585-0100.