Join in the effort to protect critical dune, prairie and forest habitats. The Department of Natural Resources today announced the schedule of volunteer stewardship activities for the month of January as part of the new Volunteer Steward Program in southwestern Michigan state parks and recreation areas. Volunteering for these workdays is a great way to “GO-Get Outdoors” in state parks, breathe some fresh air, have fun and get a bit of exercise while enjoying beautiful scenery and landscapes.

Volunteers can make an impact by removing invasive, non-native shrubs in natural areas within state parks and recreation areas. Targeted invasive species include: honeysuckle, autumn olive, barberry and Lombardy poplar. Removing them from the landscape will help protect and restore 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 management hands-on.

Volunteers in need of service credit, such as Conservation Stewards, Master Gardeners, scouts, service clubs and school groups, as well as others interested in conservation, are welcome to attend.

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

  • Sunday, Jan. 8; Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County), 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday, Jan. 14; Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, Jan. 15; Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Jan. 22; Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday, Jan. 28; Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, Jan. 29; Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan 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 DNR’s 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 activities on each workday, find directions or park information and to check the Volunteer Steward calendar of events, 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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