Michigan's Clear Lake State Park campground open and accepting reservations starting Sunday

Clear Lake State Park (DNR photos)
CORRECTION: The Michigan DNR issued a correction to this information. Clear Lake State Park campground reservations will begin being accepted on MONDAY.

Starting Sunday, June 1, Clear Lake State Park in Montmorency County will open to camping on a first-come, first-served basis and accept campground reservations, the Department of Natural Resources announced today. The campground recently received a complete electrical system upgrade and other campsite improvements.

With the electrical upgrade, all campsites have their own pedestal for power and every pedestal will have 20- and 30-amp service. In addition, some sites will also have 50-amp service.

“Campers won’t have to share pedestals with their neighbors or worry if there will be a 30-amp available anymore,” said Jerome Bischer, Clear Lake State Park lead ranger. “This should also solve the problems of brownouts and electrical shutdowns that happened frequently in the past.”

Other improvements include the addition of several large pull-through sites that eliminate the need to back up onto a campsite. These sites feature a hard, packed surface that accommodates large camping units. A number of traditional sites also were upgraded to a hard, packed surface, providing a better camping experience for campers with limited mobility.

“We listened to our customers and worked hard on creating the best accommodations to meet and anticipate their needs,” Bischer added. “Spending time with family and friends at Michigan’s beautiful state parks is a treasured tradition for many people. We want to make sure we are providing the best possible amenities to make their visits relaxing and memorable.”

To make a reservation, visit www.midnrreservations.com or call 1-800-44-PARKS (1-800-447-2757). Some sites may not be immediately available for reservations due to newly planted grass seed.

Video: 'Installing a MAXXAIR Vent Cover over an EZ Lift Vent' by RV Education 101

Enjoy this 3:41 video on "Installing a MAXXAIR Vent Cover over an EZ Lift Vent" by Mark Polk of RV Education 101.

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
In this RV "HOW-TO" video Mark Polk, with RV Education 101, demonstrates how to install a Standard MAXXAIR Vent Cover over an EZ Lift Vent. http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/...

Happy RV Learning,
Mark Polk

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Join effort to remove garlic mustard from natural areas at Michigan State Parks

Garlic Mustard (National Park Service photo)
Michigan DNR releases June schedule of volunteer stewardship workdays

Summer is a great time to get outdoors at Michigan state parks and recreation areas and help protect critical dune, prairie and forest habitats stretching from Berrien to Muskegon counties. The Department of Natural Resources recently announced its June schedule of volunteer steward activities at state parks and recreation areas throughout southwestern Michigan.

Volunteer stewards will work alongside DNR staff to remove garlic mustard, an aggressive, invasive, non-native plant that grows in the forest understory (the plants and shrubs that grow closest to the ground beneath the main canopy of a forest). Removal of garlic mustard will improve habitat for native species of wildflowers (like trillium and spring beauty) and young saplings of native trees. The work is similar to weeding a garden and is an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors. Students are welcome to participate.

Dates, times and locations (counties) of group workdays are:

Volunteers should bring gloves and drinking water and wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. All volunteers, especially large groups, are encouraged to register in advance. Questions should be directed to Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov.

For more details on DNR volunteer steward activities, including meeting location and activity descriptions, please visit www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click on the link for Calendar of Volunteer Steward Workdays.

June 7, 8 is Free Fun Weekend at Wisconsin State Parks

For two days in June, Wisconsin residents and visitors alike can enjoy some of the country's best outdoor recreation for free.

On June 7-8, people can fish for free anywhere in Wisconsin, hike or bike state trails for free, ride public ATV trails for free, and, new this year, enjoy free admission to state parks and forests on both days as well.
"Free Fun weekend is a great way for friends and families to enjoy the great outdoor throughout Wisconsin," says Preston Cole, Natural Resources Board chairman. "And, if you already have your fishing license or parks sticker, take someone new along to enjoy the free fun."

Cole also encourages people to help spread the word by printing off and posting or sharing a flyer on the Free Fun Weekend. Posters are available in English, Spanish and Hmong and are available in letter size as well as 11-by-17 inch size.

Go to dnr.wi.gov and search "free fun" for links to the downloadable posters and more information about Free Fun Weekend.

Free state parks admission
For the first time, vehicle admission fees to Wisconsin State Park System properties are waived for both June 7 and 8. Previously, the state park system's longstanding free open house was only the first Sunday in June; this year, vehicle admission fees have been waived for both the first Saturday and Sunday in June.
People who camp at state parks will still pay for their campsites and other events or programs on those two days may require a fee as well.

Free fishing
Free fishing on June 7 and 8 applies to all Wisconsin waters. No fishing license is needed to fish any waters -- this includes inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing, which normally would require a trout stamp in addition to a license. Fishing rules such as limits on the length and species of fish that can be kept do apply, however.

So far, more than two dozen free fishing clinics are scheduled across the state to help encourage people to try fishing. Check back as the free weekend gets closer as more are expected to be scheduled.

Free loaner equipment is available at more than 50 locations, including many state parks, DNR offices, and partner organizations, according to Theresa Stabo, DNR aquatic education director. People interested in borrowing gear should check for a loaner location near them or near where they will be fishing and arrange to get the equipment.

Free state trails
On June 7 and 8, all state trail pass fees on all DNR-owned state trails are waived. Cooperatively-run state trails also may waive fees. Normally, a state trail pass is required for all people age 16 or older biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing or off-highway motorcycling on certain trails. A state trail pass is not required for walking or hiking.

Free ATV riding on public trails open to such use
For the second year, Wisconsin residents and nonresidents can ride their ATVs or UTVs on public trails for free on those two days. A law advanced by the Wisconsin ATV Association and passed in 2012 created the free weekend.

Normally, Wisconsin residents have to register their ATVs or UTVs with DNR for public use to operate on public trails, or other areas open to the public like frozen water bodies. Nonresident riders normally have to buy a nonresident trail pass to ride on these areas in Wisconsin. On June 7 and 8, the registration and trail pass fees are waived. All other ATV and UTV regulations apply during the weekend.

Volunteers sought for 'Garlic Mustard Blitz' to help remove invasive from Devil's Lake State Park

Devil's Lake State Park (DNR photo)
Garlic mustard has been invading Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin and park officials are looking for help in combating the invasive plant.

On Saturday, May 31 the park will hold a "Garlic Mustard Blitz" from 10 a.m.to 2 p.m. during which volunteers are needed to help remove as much of the invasive plant as possible. Volunteers will meet near the Grotto's trail on the park's south shore.

"There will be prizes for the most garlic mustard pulled," says Sue Johansen, naturalist at Devil's Lake, one of Wisconsin's most popular and heavily visited parks.

Garlic Mustard (NPS photo)
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial plant that overwinters as a rosette of small green leaves and in the spring sends up one to many flower stalks with triangular leaves and small, four-petaled white flowers. This rapidly growing biennial spreads through forests, eliminating native wildflowers, limiting tree seedlings from developing and even slowing the growth of mature trees.

"To make matters worse, none of our native insects or wildlife eat it." Johansen said. "Help us remove these as part of an effort to keep our local natural areas healthy."

The Friends of Devil's Lake will also provide a small lunch for volunteers, so people are being asked to call ahead if they are planning on coming to 608-356-8301 Ext. 140.

Video: 'Getting to KOA - Top 10 Items RVers forget to take on RV Trips' by Mark Polk of RV Education 101

Enjoy this 2:26 video by Mark Polk of RV Education 101 named "Getting to KOA - Top 10 Items RVers forget to take on RV Trips."

Here's what Mark Polk had to say about the video:
It seems like every time you arrive at your camping destination there are things you forget to take with you. In this RV video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 offers his top 10 list of what RV owners forget to take on camping trips. What's on your list?

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Friends group being resurrected at Bald Mountain Recreation Area in Lake Orion

(DNR Photo)
The Friends of Bald Mountain Recreation Area are in the process of reorganizing, with plans to begin activities later this year. The Friends of Bald Mountain is a charitable organization for the purpose of supporting, assisting and promoting interpretive, scientific, historic, educational and related visitor services and events at the park. An informational meeting is being planned for September at the park headquarters.

Bald Mountain Recreation Area consists of 4,637 rolling acres located just northeast of Pontiac in Oakland County.

The picturesque park, which offers camping in rustic cabins, has some of the steepest hills and most rugged terrain in southeastern Michigan. Its extensive trails, inland lakes, trout streams and wild game provide rich recreation opportunities all year long. The park is home to the Skymasters Radio Controlled Airplane Club and the Bald Mountain Shooting Range. Bald Mountain Recreation Area is located at 1330 E. Greenshield Road, in Lake Orion.

"We're excited to see this Friends group re-energized and working on behalf of important park programs and events at this beautiful southeastern Michigan park," said Andrew Cole, unit supervisor at Bald Mountain Recreation Area.

Cole said the Friends group slowed its activities and involvement roughly 10 years ago, but there were members who always kept an interest and passion for the park and hoped to rebuild the Friends' momentum in the future. The reorganized group will focus on a number of areas for park improvement, including:
Volunteer work days to clean up litter and remove invasive species.

Fundraising events to aid with purchase and maintenance of improved park amenities.
Assistance with planning and promotion of park events.

Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a member of this Friends group and meeting new people who also enjoy Bald Mountain Recreation Area should contact the park and provide their contact information (including name, telephone number and email address). For additional details, please call Andrew Cole at 248-693-6767.

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Safety first, for fun times on the water

Michigan conservation officer Damon Owens talks with
boaters on Lobdell Lake in Genesee County.
There seems to be some disagreement among folks about when a new week begins; the calendar says it’s Sunday, though many believe it’s when they return to work on Monday. For the boating industry, the week begins on the weekend and Saturday, May 17, marks the beginning of National Safe Boating Week in America.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is on board with that decision and fully endorses the theme of this year’s campaign: “Ready, Set, Wear It.”

“One of our biggest concerns is making sure people understand the importance of wearing PFDs (personal flotation devices),” said Lt. Andrew Turner, the DNR’s boating law administrator. “The Coast Guard estimates that 80 percent of boating fatalities could be prevented by wearing life jackets.”

Though all boaters are required to have PFDs on board for all boat passengers, generally only those younger than 6 years old are required to actually wear them.

Boating is one of Michigan’s most popular family pastimes.
The DNR wants everyone to have fun, but remember to
put safety first every time you’re out on the water.
“In an emergency, people don’t have time to find them and get them on,” Turner said. “Today’s PFDs are not the old bulky orange vests that everybody remembers as a kid. Now they’re lighter and more comfortable. They’re designed to be worn all the time. There are inflatables available now that are very low-profile, comfortable and suitable for many activities.”

Many, but not all activities, Turner continued. Personal watercraft operators – or people being towed behind vessels, such are skiers – are required by state law to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD, but inflatables are not approved for those and some other uses.

Boating is getting safer in Michigan, Turner said. Last year there were 20 fatal accidents – resulting in 22 fatalities – down from 32 fatalities five years earlier.

“I think we can directly link that trend to boating safety training,” Turner said.

A state law, passed in 2012, requires that anyone born after July 1, 1996, is required to attend (and be certified in) safe boating training in order to operate a motorboat. The change in the law – which once required only those younger than 16 years of age to be safety-trained – means that over time everyone who operates a motorboat will have received the training.

Boaters on Lake Erie at Sterling State Park are all smiles –
maybe because they’re equipped with proper safety gear.
“The leading age group for boating accidents is people in their 50s,” Turner said. “We wouldn’t think of letting someone drive a car without driver’s education, but many people simply don't consider getting boater's safety training before operating a vessel.”

Boating safety training is available from a number of sources, including the DNR, which partnered with the Michigan Boating Industries Association to hold classes at the Detroit Boat Show this year. Training is also available through county sheriffs’ departments (82 of Michigan’s 83 counties offer the training through their marine programs), volunteer groups, and online. The online option makes it easy for anyone, Turner said.

“There are two great programs – boat-ed.com and boaterexam.com – that allow people to earn their safety certification completely online,” Turner said. “Students can print their certificates when they successfully complete the course. There is a fee, but most people don’t mind paying it because of the convenience.”

Turner said boaters should familiarize themselves with safety equipment and make sure they have it and it is in good working order. Boats with a permanently installed fuel tank or enclosed compartments are required to have a fire extinguisher on board, for instance. The DNR also recommends that boaters have a marine radio – or at least a cell phone – to use if their vessel becomes disabled or they otherwise need assistance.

During National Boating Safety Week and all year long, it’s important
to put on the proper safety equipment before you hit the water.
Boating under the influence remains a big issue for Michigan as well as the rest of the country.

“It’s a serious concern,” said Turner, noting that about 10 percent of boating accidents list alcohol as a contributing factor. “Just as it is with motor vehicles, it’s dangerous and unlawful to operate a vessel under the influence."

Turner said boaters should also keep a sharp eye out, and be aware that there are increasingly more personal watercraft (PWC) out on the water. PWCs, which make up only about 8 percent of the registered boats in Michigan, are involved in roughly a third of boating accidents.

“PWCs are fast, very maneuverable and can turn on a dime," Turner said. "The operational characteristics of PWCs vary a great deal from traditional vessels and this underscores the importance of training,” Turner said.

Michigan conservation officer Mike Drexler teaches a marine
safety class at Wilson Marine in Commerce Township.
Michigan is about as big a boating state as there is, Turner said.

“We’re second only to Florida in terms of the number of registered vessels,” he said. “We have tremendous resources. We want people to enjoy those resources – but we want them to do it safely.”

For more information on boating safety or to find out about boating safety classes, visit www.michigan.gov/boating.

More than 11,000 Memorial Day Weekend camp nights still available at Michigan State Parks

With Michigan’s sometimes unpredictable weather, it’s easy to forget about camping reservations until the last minute when it finally warms up. Even for those who haven’t made plans for the holiday weekend, though, there are still options. With 102 beautiful and diverse state parks in Michigan, there are still camping availabilities throughout the state for Memorial Day Weekend, May 23-25.

However you’d like to spend your holiday weekend, there’s likely a Michigan state park that suits your interests. For the adventurous spirit, visit a back-country area like Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park or Craig Lake State Park in the Upper Peninsula. Spending the holiday with kids? Head to Waterloo Recreation Area for the weekend and visit the Eddy Discover Center for a fun and engaging nature education experience. With a 70-degree weather forecast for most of Michigan, Memorial Day weekend is a great time to go get outdoors, wherever you are!

Many other state parks have campsites open for this weekend, particularly in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula. Some of these parks with high availabilities include:

  • Clear Lake State Park (Montmorency County)
  • Cheboygan State Park (Cheboygan County)
  • Muskallonge Lake State Park (Luce County)
  • Fayette Historic State Park (Delta County)
  • Clear Lake State Park (Montmorency County)
  • Straits State Park (Mackinac County)
  • Tippy Dam Recreation Area (Manistee County)
  • North Higgins Lake State Park (Crawford County)
  • Rifle River Recreation Area (Ogemaw County)
  • Hoeft State Park (Presque Isle County)
  • Baraga State Park (Baraga County)
  • Fisherman’s Island State Park (Antrim County)
  • Interlochen State Park (Grand Traverse County)

In the central Lower Peninsula, parks with open campsites include:

  • Sleeper State Park (Huron County)
  • Port Crescent State Park (Huron County)
  • Wilson State Park (Clare County)
  • Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County)
  • Newaygo State Park (Newaygo County)

Limited campsites are also available in the southern Lower Peninsula, including the following parks:

  • Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County)
  • Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County)
  • Highland Recreation Area (Livingston County)
  • Pontiac Lake Recreation Area (Oakland County)

To check camping availability at these and more state parks, please visit www.midnrreservations.com or call 1-800-44-PARKS (1-800-447-2757), and enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend!

Western River Expeditions predicts solid rafting season on Colorado and Green Rivers

Western River Expeditions reports that spring runoff from the Rocky Mountains into the Colorado and Green Rivers bodes well for an average to above average rafting season.

“We want to get this upbeat report out to rafting enthusiasts who may be concerned that the drought menacing California waters has spread into Utah’s river system,” says Brian Merrill, CEO of Western River Expeditions. “An above-average snowpack in the Northern and Central Rockies means we’ll have the best season in years for rafting on the Green and Colorado river systems in Utah.”

As of April 1, runoff was 112 percent of normal, compared to the same date a year ago when it was at 73 percent of normal and in 2012 at 60 percent of normal.

“In years when the snowpack was nearly identical to where we are at this point, the water year ended up being average. Average is actually really good. It's not the intense, high water that garners attention, but it is still a lot of water and a lot of fun,” Merrill underscores.

His predictions come from monitoring historic snow pack levels in the Upper Colorado River Basin that covers the northern half of Colorado, part of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming and the eastern portion of the Uinta Mountains. The basin is the source of water in the Green and Colorado rivers. He then compares snow pack levels with historic peak flows (measured in cubic feet per second or cfs) in Cataract Canyon.

“If it stays wet and cool over the next two months, we'll be in great shape. To give you some historical perspective, here are figures from comparable years on this date:

  • 1995 = 117% of normal; peak Cataract flow = 80,700 cfs
  • 1989 = 116% of normal; peak Cataract flow = 16,310 cfs 

“These are the two extremes, but my money is on a decent water year. In most years when the snow pack is over 100% at this point, we end up peaking with at least 50,000 cfs in Cataract. Our reservations staff is optimistically advising clients that Colorado is doing better than just about everywhere else in the West,” he adds.

While Grand Canyon has the name recognition when it comes to river rafting, Utah’s Cataract Canyon is often overlooked.  Cataract Canyon splits through the heart of Canyonlands National Park inviting boaters to experience both whitewater thrills and eye-popping off-river jaunts.

Other river trips on the Colorado and Green rivers that are expected to have average to above average water levels this spring and summer include:

About Western River Expeditions
Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).

Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah rafting, and Idaho rafting trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. It has been named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company is the proud recipient of the "Best of State" award through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program for nine consecutive years.  For 2014 season reservations call toll-free: 866-904-1160 or 801-942-6669.

Guest post: Lark Hotels’ The Attwater in Newport, RI opens Urban Beach House Suites and Grand Lark Suite

Author's note: As regular readers of this blog know, from time to time I'll share a press release that crossed my desk that isn't necessarily RV-related, but one I think you might find of interest. 

The bold color palette of the award-winning boutique hotel, The Attwater, has taken a casual, coastal turn at the hotel’s new Urban Beach House (UBH) opening May 1, 2014, right next door to the main hotel. The Attwater is one of the seven design-driven Lark Hotels located in New England’s most sought-after beach towns and coastal cities.

The Urban Beach House, with four suites and one guest room, brings the vibe of the beach to the heart of town. Outdoor style showers in the rooms, a sand lounge gathering spot for watching Newport roll by and kick-up-my-heels informality create the sizzle of the summer every day.

At the same time, in the main hotel, the grand new Lark Suite is being introduced.  The total number of suites and rooms available at The Attwater is now 17.

Award-winning Rachel Reider Interiors of Boston, whose creativity made waves when The Attwater opened in spring 2012, worked magic again on the new Urban Beach House and Lark Suite utilizing bold colors and fabrics, drift wood walls, modern furnishings and eclectic accents.  Rachel Reider’s designs assisted in The Attwater receiving a prestigious spot in the 2013 Conde Nast Traveler’s “Hot List”.

Nightly rates for Urban Beach House suites are from $199 to $489 King and $189-$469 Queen.  A third accommodation is the Queen Room with rates from $169 to $369. The 300-square-foot suite accommodations feature a custom-made padded headboard, LED smart TV and Tivoli radio in the bedrooms.  Living rooms afford a seating area for two, refrigerator, Keurig coffee maker, coffee table, 40″ LED smart TV, and a new generation iPad.  Both have individually controlled AC and heat and complimentary wireless Internet access.

For more information please see http://www.theattwater.com/rooms/urban-beach-house/

The new Lark Suite in the main hotel is from $179 to $589 nightly.  The Suite is the size of a small apartment at 670 square feet.  Located on the first floor, it offers a king bed, 40-inch LED smart TV, and gas fireplace in the bedroom, and a luxury bathroom with a double vanity sink, rain shower and soaking tub.  The living room features a pullout sofa bed, four-seat dining table, a dry bar with microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker and a 60-inch LED smart TV.  Other luxuries include an iPad for guest use, and a bar-top desk area. The Lark Suite has individually controlled AC and heat and complimentary wireless Internet access.

For more information please see http://www.theattwater.com/rooms-suites/lark-suite.

Deluxe amenities throughout The Attwater and Urban Beach House include designer linens, new generation iPads, Waffle Kimono robes, complimentary wireless Internet, beach bags and chairs and flat panel TVs.  Lifestyle brand vineyard vines®, the official outfitter for all Lark Hotels, provides coastal, chic attire for Attwater crew.

Guests share complimentary breakfast at The Attwater’s Café where fresh-baked pastries and beverages including fresh-roasted grinds are available throughout the day.

The Attwater is located within walking distance of Newport’s beaches, prime shopping and dining areas, as well as the destination’s famed Cliff Walk and mansion district.

The Attwater participates in Lark Hotels’ “On a Lark Club” program where points are accrued for each stay and can be redeemed in the future at each property for exclusive benefits, packages and experiences.

The Atwater is located at 22 Liberty Street, Newport, RI 02840. The telephone number is (401) 846-7444 or email stay@theattwater.com.

About Lark Hotels
Lark Hotels are located in six coveted New England seaside locations: Kennebunkport, ME, Captain Fairfield Inn;  Nantucket, MA, 76 Main and 21 Broad; Newport, RI, The Attwater; Portland, ME, Pomegranate Inn; Portsmouth, NH, Ale House Inn; and Narragansett, RI, The Break.  Lark Hotels embrace the locations they are in, but in playful, unexpected ways.  Think “sense of place” with imagination and a touch of mischief.  Each Lark Hotel invites guests to experience modern luxury in the heart of an iconic destination, to feel the pull of a nostalgic getaway while surrounded by today's amenities and to find attentive service when they want it and privacy when they don't.

For additional information on The Attwater, please visit www.theattwater.com.  For information on Lark Hotels, “On a Lark Club,” and the hotel collection please visit www.larkhotels.com.

Michigan Historical Center offers special programs every Saturday

Art Smith and Aimee Cour eloped by
airplane in 1912. (Michigan Historical
Commission photo)
Starting this month, Lansing-area families and visitors can experience a special program every Saturday at the Michigan Historical Center. Programs are being added on the third and fourth Saturdays of the month to supplement the popular “Second Saturday” and “Story Circle” (first Saturday) programs that will continue at the Michigan Historical Museum.

Third and fourth Saturdays will feature two different programs that will switch off each month. The third Saturday programs are:

History a la Carte – This program will be offered  July 19, Sept. 20 and Nov. 15. It will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature staffed stations set up around the museum for visitors to get a closer look at artifacts, historic photographs and more.

Picture Perfect – This program will be offered June 21, Aug. 16 and Dec. 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras or smartphones to shoot photos around the museum, including “selfies” that can be posted to the Michigan Historical Museum Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MichiganHistoricalMuseum or on visitors' own social media (remember to tag the museum). There will be informal photo contests and special “flash allowed” spots in certain places in the museum’s permanent exhibits.

The fourth Saturday programs are:

History Live – This program will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 24, July 26, Sept. 27 and Nov. 22. Costumed interpreters portraying Michiganders from various periods in Michigan history will be on hand to tell their stories and interact with guests.

History Gamers – Offered on June 28, Aug. 23, Oct. 25 and Dec. 27, this program will feature several historic games, such as jacks and hopscotch, and allow visitors to explore historic toys and board games. The program will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and visitors can drop in any time during that period.

For a complete schedule of all Saturday programs at the museum, go to www.michigan.gov/museum.

The museum and visitor parking are located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St., one block east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free. Saturday programs are included in the cost of admission. The museum is air-conditioned for visitors’ comfort in the summer.

The Michigan Historical Center is part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Its museum and archival programs help people discover, enjoy and find inspiration in their heritage. It includes the Michigan Historical Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

Missouri's Big Lake State Park campground to open May 23 for Memorial Day weekend

Missouri's Big Lake State Park (DNR photo)
Missouri State Parks will be welcoming campers to Big Lake State Park starting Friday, May 23 for Memorial Day weekend. The northwest Missouri park has been closed since a levee breach caused severe flooding and damage to the park in 2011.

“Since 1932, Big Lake State Park has been a spot for visitors to enjoy the outdoors, and we’re pleased to be able to once again welcome campers to the park,” said Bill Bryan, Missouri State Parks director.

The re-opened campground includes 58 electric camp sites, 18 basic camp sites and one shower house. Visitors will also be able to enjoy the day use area, which includes a shelter with capacity for 100 people. The boat ramp will also be available for recreational use of the oxbow lake for which the park is named.

Campsites will be available first come, first served through June 30. Starting June 1, visitors will be able to make reservations for July 1 arrival online at mostateparks.com or by calling 1-877-ICampMo.

Big Lake State Park is located 11 miles southwest of Mound City on Highway 111 in Holt County. For more information on Missouri state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Prescribed burns ignite Michigan wildlife habitat growth

A Michigan DNR fire officer lays down a “black line” – a
fuel-less border of already burned material that will act as a buffer
to keep the prescribed burn from spreading. This burn took place
at Verona State Game Area, Huron County. (DNR photos)
Spring is fire season in Michigan. The retreating snow and ice of winter leave behind a landscape of dead vegetation that serves as prime fuel for wildfires. At the same time, the vegetation also provides fuel for fires that state land managers want to see – fires that thin out overgrown vegetation or prepare the landscape for planting.

DNR fire officers monitor a prescribed burn from the deck of a Marsh Master.Employees within the Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resources Division (FRD) are responsible for both, putting out wildfires and igniting prescribed burns on land that can be managed using fire.

On a recent mid-April morning, Dan Laux, a fire management specialist with FRD, assembled his crew of 12 to burn about an eighth of Verona State Game Area in Huron County. The project, which would take nearly three long days to complete, is part of an ongoing effort to improve pheasant habitat as part of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative.

According to Laux, the burns were conducted with a three-step process. First, a firebreak was created with a plow around the perimeter of the area to be burned. Then, DNR fire officers – as well as DNR personnel from other divisions who have been trained to work a fire line – created a “black line” by setting fire to the area immediately inside the firebreak.

The Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative relies in part on
controlled burns to aid in habitat improvement. Here, at Huron
County’s Verona State Game Area, a Michigan DNR fire crew
supervises a burn of warm-season prairie grasses between
two green fields of cool-season grasses.
“You’re widening your safety buffer so when the hotter fire gets to that part of the field, there’s less chance of a problem,” Laux said.

Once the black lines have been established the crew begins burning the field, using drip torches – containers with a mixture of three parts diesel fuel to one part gasoline – to ignite the vegetation. Burns are started on the downwind side of the field to prevent the fire from getting out of control.

The prescribed burns at Verona were of two varieties, explained DNR wildlife biologist Don Bonnette, who oversees the area. Some are simply “maintenance burns” to thin out the undesirable vegetation that has grown on the area. Other areas were burned to prepare the ground for seeding with what Bonnette calls “the Big Four” – a mixture of big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian and switch grasses – for pheasant habitat.

“You want to burn as much as you can when you’re going to replant,” Bonnette said. “No-till seeders can get plugged up by the grass.”

While Laux and his crew were working at Verona, another crew assembled at Fish Point Wildlife Management Area about 25 miles away in neighboring Tuscola County. The burn boss – Lee Osterland, another FRD fire management specialist – had a crew of 13 on hand to burn about 280 acres of marsh in the area’s refuge. The marsh, long overgrown with cattails and phragmites (an invasive grass), has been scheduled for burns since 2008, but conditions were never right.

A Michigan DNR fire officer uses a drip torch to ignite
fuels on the downwind side of a prescribed burn at
Verona State Game Area, near Bad Axe. 
The area hadn’t been burned in 25 years and the vegetation was choking out the wetlands. The burn had originally been planned for winter and the DNR Wildlife Division crew at Fish Point had sprayed the phragmites and begun pumping water from the wetland in December in preparation for it. Excessive snow and ice made that impossible. The fire wouldn’t burn down to the root stock of the vegetation with the snow cover and the vegetation would just come back in the spring.

Because of residences to the north and adjacent highways, the crew needed a north-to-northwest wind to burn safely without sending too much smoke in the wrong directions, Osterland said.

“We don’t want to impact the local residents or the highways,” he said. “Years ago, the only way we could do this was in the winter because we didn’t have the amphibious equipment we have now.”

Site preparation was similar to those at Verona, but the crew did not need to cut a firebreak as ditches, dikes, roads and open water ringed the perimeter. The crew created black lines along the perimeter – paying special attention to areas around the utility poles that run through the marsh – before setting the larger fire.

The prescribed burn was accomplished in a matter of hours and achieved its objectives, Osterland said.

A Michigan DNR fire officer uses a drip torch to ignite fuels on the downwind side of a prescribed burn at Verona State Game Area.Fire is a common tool for wetlands management, said Joe Robison, the wildlife biologist who oversees the DNR managed waterfowl areas of southern Michigan.

DNR fire officers monitor a prescribed burn (for habitat
improvement) at Fish Point State Game Area, Bay County, from
the deck of a “Marsh Master” – a tracked vehicle that floats
and allows transportation into wetland areas.
“Burning is part of our management to eradicate phragmites,” he explained. “We typically spray it, then burn it to get rid of it, then put water on top of it to deter it from growing back. Then we try to keep the water level high enough to keep it from coming back and allow the native plant species back in.

“With cattail marshes, sometimes they become a single monoculture,” Robison continued. “It becomes solid cattails. We try to manage them as hemi-marshes – half open water and half vegetation. That’s a great mix for waterfowl for their whole cycles – staging, food availability, nesting and brood-raising.”

Every prescribed burn is different, Robison said.

“There’s no cookbook recipe,” he said. “The habitat manager has to look at it and make a decision on what he’s trying to accomplish.”

It’s been a busy season for FRD fire crews as the division has completed some 54 burns through late April, more than were conducted all of last year. Wildlife Division has more on its wish list, but prescribed burns are time, equipment and labor intensive.

“This is a direct result of us being able to direct $500,000 toward habitat improvement this year,” said Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “And that’s a direct result of the change in the license fee structure.”

Though spring will soon shift into summer, FRD is by no means finished burning for the season.

Prescribed burns play a role in habitat improvement efforts as part
of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative. Here, a Michigan
DNR fire crew member works the ground at a burn in Verona
State Game Area, near Bad Axe in Huron County.
“We’ve got a lot of burns to do yet,” Osterland said. “We do a lot of burns in the spring – a lot of them call for the burn prior to growing season. But you have different mixtures of vegetation with cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses responding differently. Sometimes we’ll burn in the summer so we’ll get a little bit different kind of vegetation coming up.

“We conducted late burns in June last year in elk habitat to set back brush.”

Similarly, FRD will be conducting prescribed burns for its own purposes.

“We often conduct slash fires (from timber sales) during the summer as the debris has dried out and the surrounding greenery makes it easier to control the fire,” Osterland said. “That makes it easier to get the equipment in for planting an area.”

For more information on prescribed burning and the DNR’s Fire Program, visit www.michigan.gov/firemanagement.

Michigan state parks gear up for warm weather with outdoor education, fitness programs

Just in time for warmer weather, the Department of Natural Resources is offering many opportunities throughout the state for families to get outdoors and experience all that Michigan state parks have to offer.

Recreation 101 – known as Rec 101 – is one of the parks’ most popular programs. This series of free, hands-on lessons allows participants to learn new skills and explore nature-related topics in Michigan’s beautiful woods and waters. Activities range from archery to windsurfing, and all equipment and expert instruction is provided free of charge. Learn more about the program at www.michigan.gov/rec101.
For the health-conscious individual and anyone looking to get in shape, the DNR launched its Fresh Air Fit program last summer. These classes are taught by local fitness instructors and include yoga, tai chi, trail running and cardio, to name just a few. Studies have shown that outdoor exercise is even more beneficial than traditional classes, so Fresh Air Fit participants can expect to experience enhanced focus, a better mood and even increased attention span. For more details, visit www.michigan.gov/freshfit.
Below are some of the Rec 101 and Fresh Air Fit programs scheduled at state parks in May:
May 17, 9-10 a.m. – Spring Renewal Yoga Tune-Up
Waterloo Recreation Area (Jackson County)
May 17, 10:30 a.m.-noon – Fresh Air Fit: EcoTrek Fitness
Sleepy Hollow State Park (Clinton County)
May 17, 11 a.m.-noon – Spring Renewal Yoga Tune-Up
Gerald E. Eddy Discover Center at Waterloo Recreation Area (Jackson County)
May 17, 2-3 p.m. – Spring Renewal Yoga Tune-Up
Pinckney Recreation Area (Washtenaw County)
May 17, 4-5 p.m. – Spring Renewal Yoga Tune-Up
Brighton Recreation Area (Livingston County)
May 23, 9-10 p.m. – Rec 101: Intro to Astronomy
Brighton Recreation Area (Livingston County)
May 30-June 1, all day – Fresh Air Fit: Beginner Triathlon Training Camp
Interlochen State Park (Grand Traverse County)
Some classes require advance registration. Please check the online event listing for details and a full schedule of events at Michigan state parks: www.michigan.gov/gogetoutdoors.
Recreation 101 relies upon volunteer instructors who provide the equipment and instruction. Anyone interested in volunteering as a Recreation 101 instructor should contact DNR recreation programmer Maia Turek at 989-225-8573.

Guest post: Sarong, Steri-Pen, Headlamp among must-pack items

Author's note: I thought this press release from Adventures Cross-Country was worth reading becaus emany of the items they recommend would be appropriate for RVers.

A travel company that journeys with teens compiles a list of travel “must haves” and pashmina doesn’t make the cut.

“Our trip staff has traveled extensively all around the world, both personally and professionally. We asked them to share with us their favorite travel items.” said Scott von Eschen, President of Adventures Cross-Country that since 1983 has provided domestic and international cultural experiences that combine community service, adventure and language immersion for students ages 13 to 19.

Following are his staff suggestions:
  • Steri-Pen Water Purifying Wand (and Wide Mouth Water Bottle): Never buy bottled water again! With this magic wand you can drink the local water worry free. Fill your water bottle, turn your purifier on, give the water a stir and, like magic, in 60 seconds your water is safe to drink.  Recommended: Steripen Freedom and Nalegene Wide Mouth (pictured at right)

  • Cotton Sarong: Is it a bath towel? A sunshade? A cover-up? Headscarf? A beach blanket? Or a light sleeping cover? A sarong is light and dries faster than quick-dry towels. Whether you need to cover your shoulders while visiting a church on a remote tropical isle or you forgot your towel at the beach, if you have a sarong, you’ll be set.  Recommended:  Vera Bradley Sarong

  • Headlamp: Ever fumbled around your hostel trying to find your bunk in the dark while everyone is asleep? Or been stranded in a remote guest house lacking electricity? Throw a tiny headlamp into your bag and you’ll never stub your toe in the dark again. Recommended: Black Diamond Ion

  • Compressible Day Pack: A relatively new product, an ultralite and easily compressible day pack is a must for any extended travel. It can serve as a carry-on bag, a laundry sack, a camera bag, a purse or simply as a place to stow those extra souvenirs you just “had to buy”. This type of bag compresses so small that you won’t even know you have it, until you are stoked you do.  Recommended:  Patagonia Lightweight Travel Pack

  • Dr. Bronner’s Soap: Rustic bathrooms are one thing; rustic hand washing is another. We love traveling with a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap for hand washing, face washing, dishwashing and just general cleanliness. In a pinch, you can even brush your teeth with it.  Recommended: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

  • Personal Lock and Cable System: Afraid to close your eyes on the chicken bus to Cuzco because someone is eying your backpack? Concerned your bag might walk off while you use the bathroom on the train to Hanoi? Use this simple lock and cable system to keep your belongings safe as you travel. Recommended: Eagle Creek Dial TSA Lock & Cable

  • Swiss Army Knife: That awesome bodega only serves wine by the bottle?  The screw fell out of your luggage wheel? You have a splinter from the wood dock you were lounging on? No worries. Just be sure to pack it in your checked luggage because those TSA agents don’t need any more of these! Recommended: Victornox Swiss Army Spartan

  • Ziplock Bags: Our everyday uses for them multiply when we are traveling. They keep things dry (camera, meds, toilet paper), keep wet things separate, and keep dirty things away from everything else! You can also use them as ‘stuff sacks’ to organize and compress your belongings.  Forgot to pack them? Just grab a couple in the TSA screening line. Recommended: IKEA Istad Plastic Bags

  • Tablet or eReader: These are great for keeping in-touch via WiFi with people back home (Skype, email, video chat) and can also be a traveler’s best friend. No longer do you need to carry 20 lbs. of guide books, maps, train schedules and beach reading:  just download them all onto your reader. They are great as language translators, currency converters and can provide directions to that little hostel hidden deep in Barcelona’s old town. They are also nice for watching a movie when jet lag has you wide awake at 3 a.m. Recommended:  Apple iPad Mini 

Adventures Cross-Country’s 50-page catalog details Community Service, Language Immersion and Multi-Sport programs in the U.S. and abroad for youth seeking a summer service learning experience, all while exploring cultures and communities off the beaten path. The full catalog in a digital version can also be viewed online: click here. To order a copy or to speak to a representative, call (415) 332-5075 or visit online: http://www.adventurescrosscountry.com/

About Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC)
Founded in 1983, ARCC is a leading provider of Community Service, Service Learning and Adventure Travel programs for youth ages 13 to 19. For over 30 years ARCC has been offering life-changing experiences to students who participate in two- to four-week small group programs that visit 21 countries on six continents. From teaching primary school English and building water purification projects in Africa to running whitewater rapids in Costa Rica to enhancing fluency in Spanish or Mandarin in Spain or China, ARCC brings youth face to face with the challenges, realities and beauties of nature and our global community. For post-high school students ARCC operates Gap Programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These offer an educational and cultural bridge between high school and college combining a rich academic curriculum with the experiential benefits of international travel.

Missouri proclaims May 17 National Kids to Parks Day

Missourians encouraged to visit a park and participate in the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon proclaimed May 17 as National Kids to Parks Day in the state and encouraged Missourians of all ages to get outside, enjoy state and local parks and participate in the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge. This national event is sponsored by the National Park Trust and endorsed by Missouri State Parks.

In March, Gov. Jay Nixon and First Lady Georganne Nixon launched the second year of the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge. The challenge encourages Missourians to complete “100 Missouri Miles” of physical activity by walking, running, biking, rolling, paddling or hiking throughout Missouri, including Missouri’s state parks.

“This year, we’re again inviting Missourians to get out and get active with their families and friends to make the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge part of a healthy, active lifestyle in 2014,” said Gov. Nixon. “National Kids to Parks Day is a great opportunity to explore our award-winning trails and enjoy all the outdoor opportunities the Show-Me State has to offer.”

In 2013, Missourians taking the Governor’s 100 Missouri Mile Challenge walked, hiked, rode and rolled more than 1,162,000 miles, enough miles to circle the Earth 46 times. To sign up for the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge and begin logging miles, or to continue an existing account, please visit 100MissouriMiles.com.

Missouri is home to award-winning state and local parks that provide an opportunity for children to engage in active lifestyles, while experiencing all that nature has to offer. Events at state parks throughout the state are sponsored by Missouri State Parks on May 17 to encourage families to take an outdoor adventure at a state park or historic site.

“With nearly 1,000 miles of trails and some of the state’s most outstanding natural and cultural resources, Missouri State Parks presents a variety of options for families to explore nature and discover the past,” said Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “Kids to Parks Day is one way we work to connect children to nature and create a life-long appreciation for the outdoors.”

For more information on the National Kids to Parks Day, visit kidstoparks.org. For more information on Missouri state parks and historic sites or to find events planned on May 17, go to mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Next day camping reservations at five Wisconsin State Parks this summer

Peninsula State Park (Wisconsin DNR photo)
In a pilot program beginning today (May 12), the Wisconsin State Park System is allowing customers to make next day campsite reservation at the following five state parks:

Currently, reservations may be made for camping up to 11 months in advance or as late as two days before the date of occupancy for reservable campsites at state park properties.

Under this pilot program, customers will be able to reserve an available reservable campsite for the next day, according to Dave Benish, state parks camping program manager for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"So on a Thursday, if available, a camper would be able to reserve a site for Friday night and up to 13 additional nights if available. If the pilot project is successful and customers find it helpful, the State Park program plans to add additional campgrounds to this project this summer," Benish said.

Benish says many park campsites are already filling up for the summer camping season, especially on weekends. Through March 2014, advanced camping reservation were up almost 2 percent over the same time last year.

"The next day reservation program will be most beneficial for people to take advantage of camping reservations that are cancelled at the last minute, and to camp for shorter periods that may be available in between reservations for a campsite.

There are two ways to make campsite reservations at Wisconsin State Parks. You may call 888-947-2757 or on the web at wisconsinstateparks.reserveamerica.com.

For more information on Wisconsin State Parks, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword "parks." To find a park location, search for "find a park."

Michigan DNR: Spring's the time for spotting salamanders on the move

Spotted salamanders spend most of the year in underground
burrows and migrate over land after hibernation to breed in
vernal ponds. (DNR photos)
Spring bird migrations can be an extraordinary sight, and state game and management areas – especially those that encompass wetlands – are popular destinations for bird watchers who wish to observe the waterfowl and shore birds that wing their way north from wintering climes. There's another significant wildlife migration happening right now, one that can be just as spectacular but often flies below the radar.

Michigan’s salamanders are on the move.

“Salamanders are kind of a mystery,” said Tom Goniea, the fisheries biologist who oversees herptiles (reptiles and amphibians) for the Department of Natural Resources. “They’re mostly nocturnal or subterranean. Springtime is when people run into them the most because that’s when they’re moving over land to breeding pools.”

Most Michigan salamanders are land-dwelling species that breed in the water, often in small, temporary wetlands. After their eggs hatch out, the creatures go through a larval stage until they mature and morph into terrestrials.

On warm, rainy spring nights, salamanders make their way from their terrestrial haunts to the wetlands where they’ll reproduce.

Salamanders are amphibians – cold-blooded vertebrates that are typically aquatic (breathing through gills) when young, but become terrestrial (breathing by lungs or through their moist skin) as adults.

Michigan is home to about 13 species of salamanders that vary widely in life cycles. Perhaps the most well-known, the mudpuppy, is a fully aquatic species. The red-backed salamander is fully terrestrial, laying its eggs on land. The western lesser siren is a primarily aquatic species – without rear legs – that has been documented in Allegan and Van Buren counties, but has not been reported in more than 30 years.

Of the remaining species, many are called “mole salamanders” because they utilize burrows. Only tiger salamanders construct their own burrows, while spotted, blue-spotted and small-mouthed (a state endangered species) salamanders utilize burrows forged by other creatures.

Herpetologist David Mifsud holds a spotted salamander
he found on a recent warm spring night.
Marbled salamanders breed in the fall on land and lay their eggs in depressions under logs or leaf litter. When the depressions fill with water from fall rains, the eggs hatch in about two weeks. If the depressions don't flood, the eggs will remain fallow until the next spring. Marbled salamanders have not been observed in Michigan for many years.

Four-toed salamanders lay their eggs in moss, leaf litter or rotting wood that overhangs a wet area. When the eggs hatch, the larvae drop into the water where they develop, metamorphosing into adult form in about six weeks.

Red-spotted newts exhibit an unusual, almost reverse life cycle. After hatching out in water, they live on land for three to seven years – when they are called efts – and then return to an aquatic environment.

David Mifsud, a private-sector biologist and self-described “salamander junkie,” said most, if not all Michigan salamander species are in decline. “Almost all of the salamanders are in the state wildlife action plan and are included on the list of species of greatest conservation need.”

The decline in Michigan salamanders can be traced to a number of factors, Mifsud said, though habitat loss and fragmentation (a decrease in habitat type or a breaking-up of remaining habitat into smaller, more isolated pieces) are chief among them. Salamanders are sensitive to storm-water run-off, invasive plants and chemicals.

Mifsud is optimistic about the future of salamanders, though “it’s going to take recognizing them as valuable parts of our ecosystem, not as secondary players,” he said. “The attitude is gradually changing – from my perspective, things are getting better in terms of awareness.”

Mifsud’s company – Herpetological Resources and Management, LLC – administers the Michigan Herp Atlas in partnership with the DNR.

“We now have a quarter-million records as part of the Michigan Herp Atlas database,” he said. “It’s an incredibly effective way for researchers, regulatory agencies and citizen/scientists to contribute.”

A spotted salamander egg mass that was found in a shallow
vernal pond. Most Michigan salamanders are land-dwelling species
that breed in the water, often in small, temporary wetlands.
Michigan’s herptiles are managed by the DNR’s Fisheries Division, largely by happenstance.

“Prior to 1988, there was no regulation of reptiles and amphibians in this state,” Goniea said. “We had a fisheries biologist at the time who was concerned about the decline in turtles he’d been seeing, and he spearheaded the charge that we needed to begin managing them.

“When the DNR received regulatory authority from the Legislature, it was decided that Fisheries Division should regulate herptiles because we had a fisheries biologist interested in them.”

It’s a natural relationship, Goniea said.

“Amphibians are largely aquatic,” he said. “They spend much of their time in water. All of our turtle species except for one are aquatic. A good portion of the other states regulate reptiles and amphibians under a fishing license.”

In Michigan, herp collectors may have up to 10 frogs, toads and/or salamanders in possession from the last Saturday in May through Nov. 15, though there are a number of species of concern that may not be taken.

“For a long time frogs and salamanders were used by fishermen as bait, but with the advancement of artificial baits, particularly plastics, the use of those species as bait is completely unnecessary,” Goniea said. “In many ways, Michigan is far ahead of a lot of states in the way we value and protect these animals.”

Instead of collecting them, folks should just enjoy them, Goniea said.

“On a warm spring evening in April, take a flashlight and an inquisitive child out to a wet area, and see what you see. You may have to look hard. It takes a while, but there a variety of salamanders, frogs and toads out there to explore.”

For more information on salamanders and other Michigan herptiles, visit www.miherpatlas.org

O.A.R.S. launches Social Media contest to encourage National Park visits this summer

Veteran river outfitter and nature-based adventure travel company, O.A.R.S., has partnered with outdoor industry leaders The Clymb, Teva, and Klean Kanteen, along with the National Park Foundation for a social media contest that gives contestants a chance to win one of four guided National Park adventures. The launch of the contest is timed to coincide with National Park Week. To enter see: http://www.smarturl.it/NationalParks.

The contest runs for four weeks from April 21 through May 18. O.A.R.S. will select one winner at random each week to receive a world-class national park adventure for two. The prizes include a 5-day Grand Canyon rafting trip, a 4-day Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Park trip, a 6-day Colorado River trip through Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park and a 4-day Green River rafting trip through the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument.

In addition to the trip, each winner will receive: a pair of Teva Original Sandals, a $100 Clymb Gift Certificate, an “I Heart Parks” hoodie from the National Park Foundation and a 20-oz Insulated Klean Kanteen.

To enter, people are asked to complete the statement: “I LOVE OUR NATIONAL PARKS BECAUSE…” Every answer is overlaid on an image from a park of their choice to create a personalized meme that can be easily shared via social networks.

“These images are fun to share and the incentive to win prizes has created an organic response that spreads love for our parks,” says Steve Markle, O.A.R.S. spokesperson. “O.A.R.S. and our partners really hope to inspire people to visit a National Park this summer. National Parks are essential to the American outdoor experience. It’s where nature reigns and man is just a visitor. It’s one of the few places where true adventure is still possible.   And we know the best way to support the parks is to share people’s passion for them and encourage others to visit.”

For more information, availability, reservations and a copy of the 2014 O.A.R.S. Adventures catalog call 209-736-4677 or 800-346-6277, email info@oars.com, or visit: www.oars.com/.

About O.A.R.S.
Some 500,000 guests later, O.A.R.S. has been providing whitewater rafting vacations since 1969. Over the decades the company has set the standard in first-class rafting, sea kayaking and multi-sport adventure, with destinations and unparalleled experiences on over 35 rivers and coastlines around the world. O.A.R.S. caters to active travelers of all ages and abilities with more than 75 unique itineraries, including one-day and weekend escapes. In 2013, for the seventh consecutive year, Condé Nast Traveler recognized Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservation Manager and International Adventure Travel Consultant, as Condé Nast Traveler’s standalone Top Travel Specialist in the River Rafting category. In 2013 Outside, America’s leading multimedia active-lifestyle brand, named O.A.R.S. one of the top two outfitters in the world in its annual Active Travel Awards recognition program.

O.A.R.S. is proud to be an authorized National Park Service concessioner in Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon & Grand Teton National Parks as well as in Dinosaur National Monument.

State leadership committed to strengthening Ohio’s 74 state parks

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer and Ohio Senate President Keith Faber recently announced that the state will invest more than $88.5 million in capital improvements at Ohio State Parks over the next two years.  

“This unprecedented investment will allow our facilities to match the impressive natural beauty that defines Ohio State Parks,” said Zehringer. “Governor Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly have shown their unequivocal support for strengthening our infrastructure and modernizing our facilities. Ultimately, this money belongs to the taxpayers, and we’re going to make sure Ohioans have a voice as we improve our parks.”

The Kasich administration is committed to investing in Ohio’s infrastructure, including Ohio State Parks. Our outdoor spaces play a critical part in keeping our children healthy and happy as they grow and develop.

“This important investment in Ohio State Parks is about more than providing a great quality of life for our communities, it’s about growing Ohio’s economy and creating jobs,” said Senator Faber. “Our strong fiscal management has given us the opportunity to help our communities maintain their infrastructure and invest in important community projects such as Ohio State Parks that are focused on making sure the Buckeye State is a place where people want to live, work, and raise their family."

These funds are not meant to expand Ohio State Parks, but to serve as a step toward improving and updating our parks for the enjoyment of every visitor. This capital improvement funding will be used to improve state park facilities and lodges across the state. Additionally, bathrooms and campsites will be updated or replaced through much of the parks system. We have been working to identify our most immediate needs and will continue to announce projects as we move through this process.

To assist us in identifying key projects, ODNR has launched a website to allow everyone to submit their ideas for improvements within the Ohio State Parks system. By visiting parks.ohiodnr.gov/improvements, people can fill out a survey to suggest improvements at their favorite state park.

Ohio is proud to be one of only seven states in the nation where admission is free. Many Ohio families and out-of-state residents turn to Ohio State Parks for hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, biking, disc golf, horseback riding and much more.

Last year, 2.3 million people spent at least one night in an Ohio State Park campground, cottage, cabin or lodge. By continuing to improve our state parks system, we have the opportunity to showcase our facilities and draw more tourism dollars into Ohio.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.