The Department of Natural Resources today announced the schedule of volunteer stewardship events as a part of the new Volunteer Steward program in southwestern Michigan state parks and recreation areas. Volunteering for these workdays is a great way to get outdoors in Michigan’s state parks, breathe some fresh air, get a bit of exercise and enjoy fall foliage and beautiful landscapes.

The Volunteer Steward program kicked off in October with native seed collection for prairie restorations. Volunteers are now needed in November and December to help remove invasive, non-native shrubs in natural areas within state parks and recreation areas. These activities will help protect and restore the unique habitats by improving conditions for native species and restoring ecosystem function. In doing so, volunteers will be benefiting many species, some of which are threatened or endangered, while also learning about invasive species and hands-on management. Volunteers in need of service credit, such as Conservation Stewards, Master Gardeners, scouts, service clubs, school groups and others are welcome to attend.

Dates, times, and locations of the workdays are as follows:

Saturday, Nov. 5 P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 6 Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 12 Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 13 Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 19 Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 20 P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 3 Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 4 Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 10 Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, Dec.11 Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants, boots, gloves, and bring drinking water. Don’t forget to bring your hiking boots to enjoy the many trails that traverse through forests, dunes, prairies, fen, and the other unique natural areas protected by our state park system.

The Volunteer Steward program is part of the Parks and Recreation Division, Stewardship Unit’s mission to “preserve, protect and restore the natural and cultural resources present within Michigan State Parks for this and future generations.” For information about the specific tasks at each workday and to obtain directions, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and link to the “Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.” All volunteers are asked to register using the forms available on the website. Please contact Heidi Frei at 269-685-6851 ext. 147 or freih@michigan.gov for registration or questions about the Volunteer Steward program in southwest Michigan.

The Recreation Passport has replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boating access fee sites. This new way to fund Michigan’s outdoor recreation opportunities also helps to preserve state forest campgrounds, trails and historic and cultural sites in state parks, and provides park development grants to local communities.

Michigan residents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($10 for motor vehicles; $5 for motorcycles) by checking “YES” on their license plate renewal forms, or at any state park or recreation area. Nonresident motor vehicles must still display a valid nonresident Recreation Passport ($29 annual; $8 daily) to enter a Michigan state park, recreation area or state-administered boating access fee site; these can be purchased at any state park or recreation area, or through the Michigan e-Store at www.michigan.gov/estore. To learn more about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport or call 517-241-7275.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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