A park patron cross-country skis at an Oakland County park.
Photo provided by Oakland County Parks and Recreation Supervisor of Marketing and Communications Desiree Stanfield
OAKLAND COUNTY – The Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department gives recreational athletes the opportunity to give loved ones the great outdoors. The department encourages residents to give an experience this holiday season by purchasing one of their gift cards.
Oakland County Parks director of marketing and communications, Desiree Stanfield, explains that the idea stems from finding a way to give recreation as a gift.
“This was a trend we had seen with other parking systems in the United States. You as a buyer have the opportunity to invest any dollar amount there. So let’s say I could buy a $50 gift card for my nephews and they can go to the water park,” she said.
According to Stanfield, the gift cards can be used for camping fees, golf fees, nature center programs and park admissions for those without a vehicle permit. The gift cards can be used to purchase any service or product at any of the 14 parks, excluding food and beverages. The gift cards expire five years after the last issue or reload.
“It’s more for the experience type. Maybe someone loves nature and you don’t know what to give them, or you want to give something different and unique. This gift card is a good option,” she said. Stanfield related a story from a few years ago: A husband walked in and bought a $2,000 gift card because he knew his wife liked golf and couldn’t think of anything else to get her.
The recipient does not have to wait until the snow melts to redeem their gift card. Most of Oakland County’s parks and trails are open year-round, and winter events like Rochester’s Fire and Ice Festival (January 20-21, 2023) and Winterfest Royal Oak (TBA) are coming up this season. For more information about the gift cards, visit https://www.oakgov.com/parks/shop/Pages/Gift-Cards.aspx.
The “Gift of Recovery” may be on more people’s Christmas lists than ever. According to Oakland County Parks and Recreation data, park and trail attendance increased by 18% in 2020 compared to 2015-2019 (pre-COVID) and last year, in 2021, by 43% compared to 2015-2019 .
“Interest in outdoor recreation has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and that trend appears to be increasing,” said Chris Ward, Oakland County Parks and Recreation Director. “Many of our facilities saw record sales and attendance in 2022. Spending time in nature and enjoying your favorite pastime is a great way to reduce stress and improve your overall health. We are optimistic that this momentum will continue in 2023 and beyond.”
This isn’t just a local phenomenon either; The National Park Service reports that it welcomed 297 million recreational visits in 2021, an increase of 60 million visitors, a 25.3% increase over 2020.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also offers gifts for outdoor enthusiasts. With the These Goods are Good for Michigan program, buyers have a variety of options to choose from, whether it’s a Michigan Runner Girl Retreat, a hand-painted Motor City Axe, or an art print by a Michigan artist. The partners featured in this collection work with the DNR to increase support and raise awareness of Michigan’s state parks, trails, waterways and other outdoor spaces. For more information, see www2.dnr.state.mi.us/PUBLICATIONS/pdfs/thesegoods.