West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Senior Operations Coordinator Heidi Russell delivers trivia questions to people in parked cars via a radio station transmitter at an event celebrating Michigan’s 184th birthday at Orchard Mall Jan. 26.

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Senior Operations Coordinator Heidi Russell delivers trivia questions to people in parked cars via a radio station transmitter at an event celebrating Michigan’s 184th birthday at Orchard Mall Jan. 26.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Winter Guide features new activities in West Bloomfield

‘Our park usage has sky-rocketed this year’

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 6, 2021

 Michigan-made products were featured at the event.

Michigan-made products were featured at the event.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Senior Operations Coordinator Heidi Russell takes part in an event at Orchard Mall Jan. 26.

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Senior Operations Coordinator Heidi Russell takes part in an event at Orchard Mall Jan. 26.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — For local residents, perhaps one of the best resources for escape and entertainment during COVID-19 has been the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission.

“We’ve been hosting in-person events, basically, starting last summer, and just about every single thing that we offer is selling out,” Commission Marketing Manager Meagan Kurnat said.

One recent piece of exciting news for some residents may be the Winter Guide that the commission publishes.

The guide provides details of programs the commission has scheduled from February through the early part of April.

Aside from getting a copy of the guide in their mailbox, residents can visit wbparks.org or call (248) 451-1900 for specifics of what is being offered.

In upcoming months, both virtual and outdoor programming is being offered.

“We’ve got a ton going on,” Kurnat said. “I was surprised when I started putting together our Winter Guide. I wasn’t sure how this winter was (going to) look for us. But our programming staff continues to be really creative. They’ve come up with a whole bunch of new programs.”

Virtual offerings include “Intro to Rock Painting,” “Chocolate Tasting” and “Heartsaver: First Aid/CPR/AED.”

As for in-person events, residents can participate in activities such as hikes with pets, as well as “mommy and me” and snowshoe family hikes, the “Bunny Trail Egg Hunt,” and “Snowshoe With Your Sweetie.”

The Winter Guide also has specific offerings for senior citizens.

“We’re offering a whole bunch of parking lot programs over at Connect, which is our senior center at Orchard Mall,” Kurnat said. “They’re really trying to keep our seniors, in particular, engaged and getting them out of the house. Even if they’re just staying in their car, they still get some interaction. … So I really would encourage any seniors, especially, to take a look at our offerings, many of which are free.”

Recreation Superintendent Kelly Hyer said everything in the guide is COVID-19 safety-friendly, including limiting outside group events to 25 or fewer people per activity.

She discussed one of her favorite aspects of this year’s Winter Guide.

“My most exciting thing is something new,” Hyer said. “We wanted to do a Black History Month celebration. … We have been able to put together four different events for the month of February — three are virtual, one is a Motown-themed sing-along in the parking lot at Connect. … I think it’s very timely that West Bloomfield does take the time to celebrate African-American history.”

Moving from the planning stages of the Winter Guide to actual implementation can be cause for celebration for those who helped put it together.

“You get the warm and fuzzies,” Hyer said. “All that hard work is now visible in one guide. … When you see the final version published, you can’t really explain the happiness and sense of relief that overcomes you.”

What local residents have access to in their local parks isn’t available in all communities.

“There are some communities that, unfortunately, their leadership didn’t allow them or they couldn’t financially afford to keep their department open,” Hyer said. “So, in West Bloomfield we’re very fortunate to be millage funded. Therefore, once we took our requests to our executive director and the commission, they were very supportive of us doing things for the general public through a pandemic. … We started programming for the general public in July and haven’t stopped.”

The popularity of West Bloomfield parks over the course of the last year or so may be unprecedented.

“Our park usage has sky-rocketed this year because people, now more so than ever, they’re really appreciating that outdoor green space, being able to have a place to go where they can safely recreate and get out of the house,” Kurnat said. “It seems like we can’t offer enough for people; they’re really hungry to have experiences right now.”

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