A park patron cross-country skis at an Oakland County park.

A park patron cross-country skis at an Oakland County park.

Photo provided by Oakland County Parks and Recreation Supervisor of Marketing and Communications Desiree Stanfield

Oakland County Parks gives the gift of recreation this holiday season

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | C&G Newspapers | Published December 7, 2022


OAKLAND COUNTY — The Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department is granting recreationalists the opportunity to gift loved ones with the great outdoors. The department encourages residents to consider giving an experience by purchasing one of their gift cards this holiday season.

Desiree Stanfield, Oakland County Parks’ marketing and communications supervisor, explains that the idea stems from finding a way to gift recreation.

“This was a trend that we had seen with other park systems around the United States. You, as the purchaser, have the option to put any dollar amount on there. So, let’s say for my nephews, I could buy a gift card that’s $50, and they can go to the waterpark,” she said.

According to Stanfield, the gift cards can be used for camping fees, golf fees, nature center programs, and park entry for people who don’t have a vehicle permit. The gift cards can be used at all 14 parks toward the purchase of services or products, with the exception of food and beverages. The gift cards expire five years after the last time they were issued or reloaded.

“It’s more for the experience type of thing. Maybe somebody loves the outdoors, and you don’t know what to get them or feel like you want to give something different and kind of unique. This gift card is a good option,” she said. Stanfield shared a story from a few years back: A husband came in and purchased a gift card for $2,000 because he knew his wife liked golf, and he couldn’t think of anything else to get for her.

The gift recipient won’t have to wait until the snow melts to redeem their gift card. Most Oakland County parks and trails remain open year-round, and winter events such as Rochester’s Fire and Ice Festival (Jan. 20-21, 2023) and Winterfest in Royal Oak (TBA) are coming up this season. For more information on the gift cards, visit https://www.oakgov.com/parks/shop/Pages/Gift-Cards.aspx.

The “gift of recreation” might be on more people’s Christmas lists than ever before. According to Oakland County Parks and Recreation’s data, park and trail attendance increased by 18% in 2020 compared to 2015-2019 (pre-COVID) and then last year, in 2021, it increased by 43% compared to 2015-2019 attendance.

“Interest in outdoor recreation skyrocketed during the pandemic, and this trend appears to only be growing,” Oakland County’s Parks and Recreation Director Chris Ward said. “Many of our facilities experienced record sales and attendance levels in 2022. Spending time in nature enjoying your favorite recreational activity is a great way to reduce stress and improve your overall health. We are optimistic that this momentum will continue in 2023 and beyond.”

This isn’t just a local phenomenon, either; the National Park Service reports that they welcomed 297 million recreation visits in 2021, which is up 60 million visits, a 25.3% increase from 2020 attendance.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also offers gifts for outdoor enthusiasts. With the “These Goods are Good for Michigan” program, purchasers have a wide variety of options to choose from, whether it be a Michigan Runner Girl Retreat, a hand-painted Motor City Axe or an art print made by a Michigan artist. The partners featured in this collection work with the DNR to raise support and spread awareness for Michigan’s state parks, trails, waterways and other outdoor spaces. Find out more at www2.dnr.state.mi.us/PUBLICATIONS/pdfs/thesegoods.