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News Digest – Week of March 25, 2024

An aerial view of a forest, a trail peeking through an opening in the arbor.

ORV season, Happy Little Trees and more reasons to explore your local trails!

Here are just a few of this week’s stories from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and others, are available in this folder.

Eclipse chasing in Michigan state parks, game areas

A total solar eclipse - the shadow of the moon blocks the surface of the sun, flares of light emanating from behind.A rare solar eclipse is set to pass over North America in just a few weeks, and people everywhere are making plans to experience this astronomical phenomenon. Whether you want to shadow-hunt in Michigan state parks, state game areas or other outdoor sites, put safety first and pack your ISO-certified eclipse glasses or solar viewers.

A total solar eclipse – when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, completely covering the surface of the sun – will cast a moon shadow across the United States, Canada and Mexico the afternoon of Monday, April 8. As the earth, sun and moon continue to orbit, the shadow will travel in a line across the continent from southwest to northeast. The total solar eclipse is viewable only from within the centerline – called the path of totality – and is estimated to last 3.5 to 4 minutes.

While the path of totality is predicted to touch only the southeastern-most corner of the state (particularly Monroe County), most state parks and state game/wildlife areas – more prone to open skies and minimal light pollution – offer ideal settings for even a partial eclipse.

According to NASA’s Eclipse Explorer, an interactive map that helps predict coverage, Erie State Game Area in Erie is expecting a “deep partial” eclipse at 99.98% totality, Sterling State Park in Monroe is estimated to experience 99.8% totality, and Lake Hudson Recreation Area in Clayton an estimated 99.3%. Other areas of the state are estimated at varying amounts.

“Sterling State Park is positioned as a prime viewing location for a near-total eclipse,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “While the path of totality won’t reach everyone, state parks can provide ideal outdoor opportunities to share, even partially, in this celestial event.”

Olson also said that coverage predictions in other parks vary depending on where you will be in the state and, understandably, lessen as you move farther away from the path of totality. Your chances on Belle Isle (Detroit) are closer to 99.4%; Sleepy Hollow State Park (Laingsburg), 96%; Mitchell State Park (Cadillac), 89.6%; Tahquamenon Falls State Park (Paradise), 82.1%; and Fort Wilkins Historic State Park (Copper Harbor).

No matter where you are when the eclipse occurs, remember to never look directly at the sun with your naked eye, even during a partial eclipse; always use certified eye protection. For more details and safety tips, check out NASA’s eclipse safety page.

A towering tree stands still as the stars track across the sky in a long-exposure shot.Sterling State Park

The nearly complete solar eclipse (99.8%) is estimated at 3:13 p.m. in Sterling State Park. Mark the moment with a viewing party in the beach parking lot from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Beginning at 1:30 p.m., solar eclipse glasses (while supplies last) will be handed out compliments of the Monroe County Convention & Tourism Bureau, Monroe County Museum and the DNR. Food trailers, interpretive programs and a touch-the-truck display will also be part of the fun.

For more information, contact park manager Jason Morgan at 734-777-6396.

Lake Hudson Recreation Area

Lake Hudson Recreation Area, near the Ohio border, is hosting a viewing party for a spectacular near-total solar eclipse (99.3 %) at approximately 3:12 p.m. Visit Lenawee will provide free solar eclipse glasses (while supplied last) to all visitors in the beach parking lot.

This park is a stargazing destination as one of six designated dark sky preserves in Michigan state parks. Dark sky preserves are locations specially designated by the Michigan Legislature and are open 24 hours a day.

For more information, contact park supervisor Shane Morse at 517-467-7401.

Erie State Game Area

Estimated to be among Michigan’s best eclipse-viewing locations, Erie State Game Area (with 99.98% coverage) will partner with the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau to host a viewing event from 2 to 4 p.m. on the Dusseau Tract at the corner of Dean and Bay Creek roads. Parking is available in a few small parking areas and along the grass shoulder of Bay Creek Road. MCCTB staff will have a limited amount of eclipse viewing glasses available.

For more information, contact Adam Shook at [email protected].

Ready to ride? Buy your ORV license and trail permit today

Orvs drive down a forested road.April 1 marks the start of the 2024-25 off-road vehicle season in Michigan, and now is a great time to purchase your license and trail permit. Access thousands of miles of state-designated ORV trails and scramble areas, eligible county/national forest roads, state forest roads open to ORV use and more.

ORV licenses and trail permits are valid for one year, from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. Your dollars make a major impact: Fees generated through ORV licenses and trail permits are reinvested into the ORV system, benefiting trail expansion, grant funding for annual trail grooming, infrastructure improvements and more uses.

The state’s ORV community also plays a critical role in ensuring the maintenance and longevity of state-designated motorized trails, said Ron Yesney, Upper Peninsula trails coordinator for the DNR.

“We’re thankful for the many ORV clubs all across Michigan who maintain 4,000 miles of state-designated ORV trails,” Yesney said. “These volunteers keep our trails signed and maintained, and without them we couldn’t provide the high-quality trails system that we do.”

As you plan your spring and summer riding excursions, a few friendly reminders to keep in mind:

  • All operators under age 16 must have an ORV safety certificate to ride on public land – including trails.
  • Plan ahead! Know which trails you want to explore and whether you are allowed to be there by viewing the DNR’s interactive ORV trail and route maps. Also check your vehicle width and trail signage before proceeding on a trail – trails and restricted areas may be closed for your safety. Aside from being unsafe, trespassing on closed trails and roads can result in fines and future trail closures.
  • Always Ride Right so you return safely to family and friends. This means riding at a safe speed, riding sober, riding on the right side of the trail (trails have two-way traffic) and wearing a helmet.

If you cross paths with trail volunteers, tell them you appreciate their efforts! Great trails don’t just happen – volunteers’ hard work and dedication help keep your favorite outdoor recreational activities safe and enjoyable.

Learn more about ORV riding in Michigan at Michigan.gov/ORVInfo. For more information, contact Ron Yesney at 906-228-6561.

ICYMI: E-bikes may soon be allowed on state park trails

Two people cycle down a paved trail in summer.Electric bicycles may be allowed to operate on state park-managed nonmotorized trails currently open to bicycles, under a proposed DNR land use change that could go into effect as early as this spring.

Under current Michigan law, only Class 1 e-bikes – e-bikes that are pedal-assisted and can go up to 20 miles per hour – are allowed on improved surface trails, which are trails that are paved or consist of gravel or asphalt. Current law also allows for local entities to expand or further regulate e-bike usage in their respective communities.

A public survey about the proposed land use change is open through March 31, and results will be shared during the April 11 Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting. The proposed policy change will go before DNR Director Scott Bowen for action at the commission’s May meeting, with any approved change going into effect immediately thereafter.

The proposed DNR land use change – explained in more detail in this recent DNR news release – would expand allowable e-bike use to include Class 1 e-bikes on natural surface, nonmotorized trails on state park-managed land open to bicycles.

Learn more about what qualifies as an e-bike in Michigan, the current e-bike policy on state-managed park land and survey details at Michigan.gov/DNR/Ebikes. Directly access the e-bike survey at research.net/r/DNR-E-BIKE.

Questions? Contact Nicole Hunt at 517-282-9970.

Run, walk or roll this Bob Ross-inspired race

A thermos with a Bob Ross sticker.Spring has sprung! Now is the time to sign up for the next Run for the Trees: Happy Little (Virtual) 5K. Run, walk or roll your race to support tree planting and forest protection efforts in state parks. This Bob Ross-inspired program, now in its fifth year, continues to expand, with participation from Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.

“We are excited to witness the evolution of this partnership with Bob Ross Inc.,” said Michelle O’Kelly, who oversees fund and resource development for the DNRd Parks and Recreation Division. “Over the past five years, we have enjoyed celebrating ‘the joy of painting’ with a love of trees and being active all at the same time. It has been exciting to see the program offerings – to include the new happy little sticker – and our reach grow to 10 states,” she said. “We look forward to seeing how the program continues to grow in the future.”

Registration is open through Monday, April 1, at midnight. Race details:

  • Registration is $36 and includes a keepsake Happy Little T-shirt, Happy Little Trees sticker (new this year!), finisher’s medal, commemorative bib number and shipping.
  • Complete your 5K – that’s 3.1 miles – between April 22 (Earth Day) and April 26 (Arbor Day).
  • You pick the pace and the place, anywhere outdoors.
  • For group discounts (10 or more registrants), contact race director Michelle O’Kelly.
  • Race packets are starting to ship! Don’t miss out – sign up today at RunSignUp.com/HappyLittleTrees to receive your goodies in time for your run.

Questions? Contact Michelle O’Kelly at 517-899-5211.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Starlight over swaying blades

Tufts of dunegrass sway beneath a sea of stars.See more pictures by Michigan state parks photo ambassadors at Instagram.com/MiStateParks. For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182. (This photo is by Jessica Sancrant, for the Michigan DNR, at Port Crescent State Park in Huron County).


True spring is right around the corner and so is tree planting season! Find planting resources, guides and articles on how to attract beneficial species to your yard on the Mi Trees page.