Fun goes on without the sun at Oakland County parks

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 24, 2016

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BIRMINGHAM — The holidays may be wrapping up, but winter is far from over.

So, if you can’t beat it — join in. There’s plenty of fun to be had at Oakland County Parks, even in the cold and snowy weather.

D.J. Coffey, parks supervisor of Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston, said there’s usually a pretty good turnout of residents each winter, and he expects even better numbers this year.

“So far, we’ve been blessed with some good snow this year,” he said. “We actually began grooming the cross-country ski trails already for skiing this year.”

Independence Oaks offers groomed trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoers, complete with ski and shoe rental for those without their own accoutrement. There’s also 2.5 miles of paved trails for hikers and dog walkers.

“Ice fishing is available too, but you just have to be very cautious because we don’t monitor or check the depth of the ice out there,” Coffey said.

Winter hikes are popular out at Waterford Oaks County Park too, located in Waterford. Parks Supervisor Mike Boyd said the 3 miles of ungroomed trails will start to pick up traffic soon, especially as more snow moves into town.

But there are already plenty of folks making their way to the park — younger folks, that is.

“There are plenty of people out there on the kiddie hill right now, as we speak,” said Boyd. “It’s a smaller sledding hill, but it’s perfect for kids with a plastic-type sled. And we’re open from 8 a.m. until sunset seven days a week.”

To highlight the activities available through the winter at many of the county’s parks, several sites have planned special programming for guests of all ages.

On Jan. 14, Red Oaks Nature Center, 30300 Hales St. in Madison Heights, will host a fireside chat with legends of Michigan’s past beginning at 3 p.m.

Guests will cozy up by the fireplace and learn about Anishanabe, who lived in Michigan hundreds of years ago. A naturalist will lead interactive storytelling and traditional Native American games. Younger guests will make a craft and enjoy cocoa and a snack.

That same day, ice fishing novices can get a lesson in equipment and techniques during Ice Fishing 101 at Twin Chimneys Shelter in Independence Oaks County Park, 9501 Sashabaw Road in Clarkston. Participants for that course must be 17 or older.

Later in January, Independence Oaks will host cross-country ski school 10 a.m.-noon Jan. 28. Guests can use rented skis or their own equipment to learn the ins and outs of the popular Michigan sport.

Meanwhile, Red Oaks Nature Center will host a winter session of the Nature Sprouts program 10-11:45 a.m. Jan. 28. Geared for ages 3-6, little guests with adult accompaniment will focus on the “shapes of nature” with stories, a hike, a craft and a snack.

There are also a variety of events for Scouts and children with special needs throughout the month. Boyd said many residents are pleasantly surprised to find that there’s something for everyone to do at the parks.

“It’s a nice place to come out, take a walk and enjoy the weather,” he said.

For more information or to see a full schedule of activities, visit OaklandCountyParks.com.

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