Children attend a maple sugaring event at the Farmington Hills Nature Center in 2018.

Children attend a maple sugaring event at the Farmington Hills Nature Center in 2018.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Farmington Hills Special Services reflects on 2020, looks to 2021

By: Zachary Manning | Farmington Press | Published February 25, 2021


FARMINGTON HILLS — Though the pandemic shut down much of the fun in 2020, the Farmington Hills Special Services Department was able to provide some much-needed relief.

According to its annual report, the department was able to serve 55,934 households and 128,466 individuals with its programming.

The staff is proud of what it was able to accomplish last year and is looking forward to creating an even better 2021 set of programs, according to the department.

“Overall, it’s been very, very positive, and people are excited and anxious to get back,” Special Services Director Ellen Schnackel said of the feedback she’s gotten. “We’re certainly stepping into it very, very cautiously for everyone’s protection, but it’s been very, very positive.”

With the calendar turned to 2021 and the snow piling up in bunches, the department is scheduling some upcoming events and activities.

Upcoming activities will service a wide range of interests, according to the department. Things such as pickleball, technology and dance classes, nature walks and skating are just a few of the activities locals can participate in. The full catalog can be found at

Deputy Director of Special Services Bryan Farmer noted that it’s important to him and the department to diversify the activities to ensure the entire community is served.

He added that any feedback the department receives from the community via email, phone or survey is heavily taken into consideration.

In terms of what locals can look forward to, the new community center, which will be called The Hawk, is scheduled to open in 2021 after construction was delayed in 2020.

Along with the parks, nature centers and recreation spaces already in place, The Hawk will house a fitness center, a makerspace, a theater and aquatics facility, as well as other recreation spaces.

The facility has announced partnerships with High Score! eSports, the Bosch Community Fund and the Society of Active Retirees.

Farmer encourages everyone in the area to get out and explore Farmington Hills. He added that the city has a lot to offer in terms of recreation and overall beauty.

“Everywhere you turn in Farmington Hills, you turn around the corner and there’s another hidden gem that you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is awesome,’” Farmer said. “I think every park, facility and program that we offer, people are highly impressed because our staff does do the research.”

Despite having a wide range of activities planned, the department is still staying responsible in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, they said.

All programs must follow state and federal guidelines, temperature checks are required, and a few questions must be answered prior to entry, among other things.

Those interested in finding a program or signing up to participate in a program can visit Costs vary by program and can be paid in person, by mail or online.

“We clean way more than we ever have. Obviously, we’ve always cleaned, but now we’re quadruple cleaning to be safe. We have hand sanitizer all over the place. We’ve definitely conformed to what safety standards COVID-19 has brought,” Farmer said.