Protecting and maintaining the beauty of Michigan’s natural and cultural resources is vital to ensuring its viability for generations to come. Since the early 1800s, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been committed to this conservation. In that vein, we strive to encourage sustainable, recreational use and enjoyment of Michigan’s outdoor landscape for everyone. Summer is the time of year when individuals and families are looking to get outdoors and find fun, engaging activities for their children, as well as themselves. While Michigan’s state park system now has 102 state parks and 138 state forest campgrounds, many people think of “state parks” as Tahquamenon Falls or Ludington State Park – destinations you visit on longer vacations, not someplace nearby to visit for a walk at lunch or to take the kids to enjoy a playground after dinner. Three years ago, we joined forces with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association (mParks) to change that. In 2013, we collectively launched MI Big Green Gym, an initiative to encourage people to use the state’s outdoor green spaces to be active and healthy. As Michiganders, we are so fortunate to live in a state filled with parks, forests, lakeshores, campgrounds, trails and wildlife areas. Each of these places is filled with countless opportunities to walk, run, bike, swim, climb, hike, paddle and so much more. What better gym could there be? At the DNR, we offer additional activities to educate, entertain and fuel health habits. We have more than 40 nature program sites with activities such as crafts, night sky viewing and fitness programs. MI Big Green Gym also offers weekly events in the parks like beach yoga, sunrise runs, endurance cycling and hikes with your favorite furry friend. You can also take advantage of our expertise with archery and fishing classes. Not only are parks an ideal way for people to get more exercise, they also are shown to improve psychological and social health. Exposure to nature is shown to reduce mental fatigue and anxiety, and restore the mind’s ability to focus. To further our mission of increasing use of Michigan’s parks, the MI Big Green Gym partners took the initiative one step further last year when we merged with the Michigan Activity Pass program, an initiative that now gives library cardholders across Michigan free access to hundreds of Michigan’s state parks, historic sites, cultural attractions, campgrounds and recreation areas. This means that everyone across the state can gain entry to 102 state parks and 138 forest campgrounds, not to mention thousands of miles of motorized and non-motorized trails – for free. Anywhere a Recreation Passport is required, the Michigan Activity Pass provides a free, one-day pass. The program also includes free or discounted entry to 170 historic sites and cultural attractions across the state. No matter where you are in Michigan, you are never more than 30 minutes away from a state park, forest campground or trail system. To start taking advantage of your big green gym, look up Michigan Activity Pass destinations near you on michiganactivitypass.info. [smartslider3 slider=13]
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