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Make a splash at local water parks and beaches

July 18, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Andrew Bajorek, of Royal Oak, and his friend Gavin Browning, of Madison Heights, above, turn summertime into fun time at the fountain in City Square Park in Warren last year.

When it comes to fun in the water, Michiganders know how it’s done.

The Great Lakes State has plenty of public lakes, pools and water parks that families can visit to escape the summer heat. With temperatures reaching record highs in recent weeks, metro Detroiters are heading out in droves to take a cool dip at one of the area’s many public parks.

The indoor water park at the Warren Community Center is always a favorite with families who want to have fun out of the sizzling sun. The huge pool and aquatic center boasts a 300 gallon dumping bucket, multiple slides and a lazy river. Adult guests can indulge in the steam room, sauna or pool — and all of the amenities are housed inside a vast space that’s climate controlled to a comfortable 80 degrees.

According to Henry Bowman, director of parks and recreation for the city of Warren, though the water park is open year-round, there is usually a spike in attendance in mid-summer as the mercury climbs.

“We normally do see a big increase in traffic. People want to get out of the extreme heat.”

A romp in the Warren Community Center indoor water park, 5460 Arden Road, costs $5 for residents, $10 for nonresidents.

Just across town in Warren’s City Square Park, kids can cool off in the fountains at city square. The fountain’s shallow pool and shooting jets turn the space outside city offices into the area’s premier splash pad. There’s no charge to play in the fountain space north of 12 Mile, east of Van Dyke.

While a day playing in a waterpark might be fun for some, for others there’s no substitution for the real thing. Independence Oaks park in northern Oakland County plays host to outdoor enthusiasts all year long, from hikers and boaters in the summer to ice fishermen and cross-country skiers each winter.

For years, visitors have come to enjoy the park’s many warm-weather activities, like swimming, picnicking and playing on the beach at Crooked Lake, the park’s man-made lake. They even offer boat rentals and boat launch zones for guests who want to head out to the water in a non-motorized vessel. The beach is always a popular place for summer play, according to park supervisor Mike Boyd, who said the park can draw hundreds of visitors in just one day.

“In this heat, there’s a variety of things you can do (here). Hike our trails, rent a boat, and when you get really hot, you can go cool off at the beach,” said Boyd.

Just over a year ago, Independence Oaks opened a second portion of the park for guests who want a quieter lake experience. Independence Oaks North offers access to Upper Bushman Lake, a natural body of water. Because there’s no swimming permitted in Upper Bushman Lake, it’s not a popular spot for kids to play, according to Boyd, which makes it the perfect spot for anglers. Fisherman can relax on the catch-and-release lake without the commotion of the main beach.

“You can take your own boat down there. It’s a small little trail down to the lake. It’s got an Up North feel to it,” said Boyd.

Clarkston resident Matt Arndt said he often likes to take his 2 year old son, Cole, to Independence Oaks while the weather is warm.

“It’s very clean and family friendly, and my son loves going on the nature walk,” said Arndt.

­­As far as attendance, Boyd said that while Independence Oaks has been as busy as any other summer, he’s noticed that guests aren’t hanging around all day the way they have in years past. He says the record temperatures are to blame for the short stays.

“We have an increase in users, but they’re staying less time. They might stay for a couple of hours and go because it’s so hot.”

The park, located at 9501 Sashabaw Road in Clarkston, is open every day year-round except for Christmas Day. The cost of entry is $5 a day for Oakland County residents, and $10 for nonresidents, with yearly passes available. For hours and more information, visit

Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township combines all the amenities of a waterpark with the fun and beauty of a natural recreation space.

The park, located at 31300 Metro Parkway, is open year-round to accommodate bikers, hikers, and even skiers and ice fishers during the winter months. When summertime hits, though, families flock from all around to the park’s one-mile shoreline on Lake St. Clair. Guests can swim, boat, kayak or play on the 1,000 foot sandy beach. Combine that with the many nature trails, basketball and tennis courts, and lengthy paved boardwalk, and the park is a perfect place to embrace the great outdoors.

But for those who prefer a more chlorinated experience, the park has something for them, as well. Visitors can splash in an Olympic-sized swimming pool complete with waterslides for younger guests, who also can play around in the park’s Squirt Zone.

According to A.J. Frazher, water safety supervisor at Lake St. Clair Metropark, the hot and humid weather has been drawing huge crowds to the park’s many water spaces.

“It’s just been a really good summer for us. With the heat reaching 100 degrees and such, it’s just been really busy. I’d say between 500 and 1,000 people a day.”

Frazher said that the reasonable prices of the park are another draw to customers. While some park features come with a cost, like the adventure putt-putt golf course, the par-3 golf course and the boat launch, many of the park’s facilities are free to visitors.

“It’s a really big park. You can swim at the beach for free. The Squirt Zone is free. The basketball and tennis courts are free. For the amenities and the price you’re paying, it’s a great way to beat the heat and cool off. There’s a great amount of water-related activities; it’s close for a lot of people; and we have an exceptional staff,” said Frazher with a laugh.

There is a $5 cost per vehicle to enter the property. The summer hours for Lake St. Clair Metropark are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. For more information, visit

For more information about parks and beaches in your area, contact your local parks and recreation department or county parks division.

About the author

Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki covers Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Franklin and Bingham Farms along with Birmingham Public Schools, Oakland County Parks and Recreation and Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center. Esshaki has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2011 and attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Oakland Community College.


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