Winter recreation, a month of cool fun until spring

Hiking, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and just going for a walk are some of the activities you can still enjoy outdoors this winter.


“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing,” says Marcie Post, the recreation manager for the City of Midland.

The Chippewa Nature Center, Midland County Parks, and City of Midland Parks and Recreation have some great venues for you to enjoy the snow, and fresh, crisp air. There’s still time — the first day of spring isn’t until March 20.

Midland's City Forest covers 520 acres and features a sled hill.

Midland City Forest


City Forest, which stretches over 520 acres, is located on Monroe Road, just north of the Midland Mall. It offers 13 miles of mountain bike trails and 7.5 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.


“Even though we’re not programming, we are maintaining those areas,” says Post.


The signature feature at City Forest is the sled hill. The hill has a great base of snow on it right now. The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down; the lights stay on until 10:00 p.m. For safety reasons, no steel runner sleds or snowboards are allowed. The ice skating rink is open and the fire pit is available. The toboggan run and the chalet are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Rental equipment is not available. Extra porta johns are in place.

This hockey rink is located on the west end of Emerson Park in the city of Midland.

Emerson Park and The Pere Marquette Rail Trail


Down at Emerson Park, right on the Tittabawassee River, the hockey rink is open. It also has lights, which are operated by a timer that you can reset to add time.


Running through Emerson Park is the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. “I don’t think everybody realizes that we work to make sure that’s clear,” says Post. City staff maintain the trail from Dublin Road to the Tridge, and then east to Dow Diamond. The portion behind Riverside Place is currently closed for tree maintenance. The Rail Trail sees a lot of walkers and runners, even in the winter.

The Pere Marquette Rail Trail is busy even during the winter.

The Rail Trail stretches west to northwest for 22 miles all the way to the Midland/Isabella County Line, west of Coleman. Four stretches of the trail outside of Midland are plowed by Midland County Parks staff.


“There are folks who fat tire bike on the unplowed sections of the Rail Trail and also at Pine Haven,” says John Schmude, Midland County Parks director.

He’s referring to the Pine Haven Recreation Area, a 327 acre park maintained by the county. It sits just west of the village of Sanford near the US-10 freeway. “We maintain about 9 and a half miles of cross-country ski trails there,” says Schmude. Fat tire biking is popular in City Forest, Pine Haven, and other parks in Midland County.Besides Pine Haven and the Rail Trail, you can also have some winter fun at Sanford Lake Park and Veterans Memorial Park, both the north and south sections, which cover 130 acres west of Sanford, south of old US-10.


Chippewa Nature Center


The Chippewa Nature Center (CNC), located south of Midland on South Badour Road, has 19 miles of trails open from dawn to dusk daily and over seven miles are groomed for cross-country skiing.


“Our staff estimates that our trail use is up two to three times compared to a typical year. People are looking for a safe place for outdoor activities,” says Jamie Hockstra, the CNC’s director of marketing and communications.


In addition to the trails, the Nature Center is offering some limited programming, all outdoors. There are evening snowshoe hikes, led by naturalists, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 22 and Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 5-6:30 p.m. While the hikes are free, registration is required. The CNC will provide snowshoes if you need them. There’s also the monthly full moon strolls set for the last Saturday this month, Feb. 27, from 6:30-8 p.m. “We’ll use snowshoes if the conditions permit it,” says Hockstra.

Chippewa Nature Center offers free snowshoe hikes and the snowshoes if you need them.In March, the Nature Center is known for its Maple Syrup Day but they’re taking a different approach this year. Instead, March will be Maple Syrup Month. You can register for the Tap-A-Tree program, which accepts a group of 10 persons, who will go into the sugar bush with a naturalist and tap a tee to collect maple sap. There is a fee for this program.

Chippewa Nature Center Nature Day Camp brochure for summer 2021 is now available online.
Finally, Monday, March 2 is a big day for the CNC — that’s when parents can begin to register their children for their summer programs. “Our camps fill very quickly,” says Hockstra.
The Nature Day Camp brochure is now available online. You can view the brochure or register for programs on the Chippewa Nature Center’s website, or you can call 631-0830.

Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom is a communications professional and managing editor of Catalyst Midland. He's currently a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He was the co-producer on the WDCQ documentary "Breached! The Tittabawassee River Disaster."
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