DNR Get Involved: state park volunteer opportunities, Happy Little Virtual 5K

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DNR Get Involved - December 2020

cardinal on snowy ground

Here are a few ways to get involved in taking care of Michigan’s natural resources in December. For more opportunities to volunteer, contribute and provide input, visit Michigan.gov/DNRVolunteers.

Help remove invasive plants from state parks

volunteer piling invasive plants that have been removed

Several state parks in southern Michigan will host volunteer stewardship workdays in December. Volunteers are needed to help with removing invasive plants that threaten high-quality ecosystems in the parks.

Please note that preregistration is required for all volunteer workdays, and participation may be limited due to social distancing requirements.

Although these are outdoor programs and proper social distancing of at least 6 feet is required, participants are asked to wear a face covering at the beginning of the day when volunteers are gathered more closely during instruction.

Workdays will take place:

  • Saturday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m. to noon at Bald Mountain Recreation Area (Oakland County)
  • Sunday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County)
  • Saturday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m. to noon at Belle Isle Park (Wayne County)
  • Sunday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Brighton Recreation Area (Livingston County)
  • Saturday, Dec. 19, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County)
  • Sunday, Dec. 20, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Pinckney Recreation Area (Washtenaw County)

More details about each workday can be found on the DNR volunteer events calendar.

Register for Run for the Trees / Happy Little Virtual 5K

Run for the Trees/Happy Little 5K Bob Ross graphic

Online registration for the Run for the Trees / Happy Little Virtual 5K is now open.

Taking place April 22-30, 2021, this virtual race – bookended by Earth Day and Arbor Day – supports state parks, with all proceeds going toward Happy Little Tree-planting and preservation efforts in the parks.

You can choose to walk, run or hike, and you pick the pace and the place, as long as it's outdoors.

Cost is $34 per person. Everyone who participates gets a keepsake Happy Little T-shirt, commemorative bib and finisher's medal featuring a real Bob Ross painting.

The 2021 event is capped at 20,000 participants.

Entries to the Bob Ross-inspired Happy Little Virtual 5K also make great holiday gifts!

Through a partnership with Bob Ross Inc. and funding from the U.S. Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the DNR's Happy Little Trees program helps state park campgrounds recover from invasive forest pests/diseases, like emerald ash borer and oak wilt, that damage or kill trees. Learn more at Michigan.gov/DNRHappyLittleTrees.

Contribute to the story of the Forest Heritage Trail

wooded trail with trail markers

A new segment of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail currently under development will add about 20 miles to the trail’s planned 828-mile biking route, but project managers also plan to add layers of story to this stretch that connects Higgins Lake Nursery and the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at North Higgins Lake State Park with Hartwick Pines State Park – and you can help.

Led by the Michigan History Center, this heritage trail project in Crawford County – unofficially dubbed the Forest Heritage Trail – is welcoming local history stories as part of Michigan’s Heritage Trails program. The Center is partnering with Central Michigan University and local stakeholders to identify the unique and critical history of the area and plan for a series of interpretive informational signs for people to enjoy while exploring the trail.

Heritage stories about the Forest Heritage Trail do not have to directly connect to or be about the forest.

Want to learn more about the project and share some stories? Join in a virtual meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9. Advance registration for the meeting is not needed; just visit TinyURL.com/Forest-Heritage-Trail around 6:50 p.m. to sign in and join the meeting.

Join a winter bird count

You can contribute to community science by joining a bird count this winter to help scientists track bird movements, assess bird population health and guide meaningful conservation action. Join the Christmas Bird Count, register to volunteer for the Michigan Winter Feeder Watch with Kalamazoo Nature Center or participate in Cornell’s Project FeederWatch.

Check trees for hemlock woolly adelgid

If you have eastern hemlock trees on your property – or if you’re out in the woods enjoying the outdoors – winter is the optimum time to look for evidence of hemlock woolly adelgid, invasive insects that can cause significant harm to Michigan’s hemlock trees. Learn how to identify and report them at Michigan.gov/HWA.