In Michigan, people know parks are not just for summer. And nobody knows that more than the Michigan Recreation and Park Association, now known as mParks.
When the organization recently met in Grand Rapids for its annual conference, drawing more than 600 delegates plus about 250 exhibitors and speakers, they were able to experience some winter park activities – one classic and one that has been gaining in popularity.
The conference location at DeVos Place convention center in downtown Grand Rapids gave attendees the opportunity to go ice skating during their lunch break at nearby Rosa Parks Circle, which also hosted a collection of food trucks.
“To have a location where you can just leave at lunch and be able to go out and go ice skating and have food right there – it’s really been a special conference,” said Laura Cleypool, business manager for the city’s Parks & Recreation department.
Cleypool was also pleased to take attendees to the city’s Indian Trails Golf Course and highlight a new use: winter fat biking.
It shows “how a facility that would be very traditionally a summer, spring, fall facility is able to be utilized throughout the year,” she said. “It was a beautiful collaboration between the golf course manager and a couple local bike shop owners.”
Ann Conklin, mParks chief operating officer, said the Indian Trails excursion was a great opportunity for attendees.
“Many of our members have bike trails in their communities that are now being used for fat bikes,” Conklin said. “It is important for them to understand the industry and how others are accommodating it. What was unique to Grand Rapids was the use of the golf course.”
It was one of several site visits planned for the conference, including a look at universal design at the Mary Free Bed YMCA, examining operations of the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team and the Van Andel Arena, and meeting with Grand Rapids Public Museum to look at how parks departments and urban centers can incorporate tourism, recreational services and a downtown river.
“Grand Rapids has many facilities very close to each other – the museum, the sports complexes,” Conklin said. “The city presented varying options for educational opportunities.
“The customer service across the board was spectacular, and the solution-based attitude of everyone was very helpful.”