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October 9, 2013

Find that Up North fall feeling at Oakland County parks

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Find that Up North fall feeling at Oakland County parks
According to Chief of Oakland County Parks and Recreation Jim Dunleavy, the leaves are just starting to change color at many of the county’s parks, including the River Loop Trail in Independence Township.

OAKLAND COUNTY — Already, the days are getting shorter and cooler as fall takes over metro Detroit.

But not all is lost. Like she always has, Mother Nature is making up for summer’s departure by arranging a fabulous display of colors along the treetops.

Soon, the highways will be packed with Oakland County residents heading Up North to take in the beauty of the changing leaves. But why spend the gas when there are plenty of ways to get your fall fill closer to home?

According to Jim Dunleavy, chief of park operations for Oakland County Parks and Recreation, the colors have already arrived at many of the county’s park spaces.

“It’s starting to turn out at Independence Oaks. I was out there today,” he said. “The reflection when you get out onto the lakes is just beautiful.”

Dunleavy said that the Parks and Recreation Department staff knows that fall usually means an influx of visitors to Oakland County parks. He said there are lots of reasons people head out to the parks: to hike the trails, ride their bikes, have a picnic and enjoy the lakes on a boat or canoe. But all of those activities are made better this time of year, he said, with the gorgeous scenery.

“I’m sure a lot of people go out just to see that,” he said of the leaves. “But we try to base some events around it. We have the Fall Color Car Classic Oct. 6, and then the following week is the Hidden Forest Trail Run, and people come and run the trail.”

Park staff even hosts Senior Fall Color Tours each year, so seniors in each community can enjoy a field trip out to select county parks to see the leaves, socialize and celebrate all things fall.

“This year, we’re going out to Independence Oaks in Clarkston. We had been going to Addison Oaks, but we’re trying to mix it up,” said Sandy Dorey, recreation program supervisor at Oakland County Parks and Recreation. “We pick up about 20-40 seniors in different communities and take them out to our parks to check out the colors. And we always make sure there’s a stop. We’re going to Cook’s Farm dairy for ice cream; then we’re going to swing by Rochester Cider Mill.”

Dorey said there are usually about 10 trips each year offered, and seniors are picked up at designated spots in their area. Once at the parks, the tour guests are treated to either a pontoon ride or hay-wagon ride while they take in the trees.

At times, adult children tag along with their senior parents for the tours. They just can’t help it, she said — everyone enjoys the beautiful scenery at the parks this time of year.

“If you live in the south end, you can get that feeling of being Up North just by driving to a county park,” she said. “Have a picnic, or get out on the water and enjoy the colors and peacefully paddle around the lake.”

But if you want to see the leaves before they fall, you better hurry. Dunleavy said that the mornings and sunset are the optimal time to enjoy the fall sights; but in just a few weeks, the chance will have slipped away.

“It all depends on the weather and how much rain we get,” he said. “I’d say you have until at least Nov. 1.”

To learn more about the Senior Fall Color tours, contact your local senior center. For more information about Oakland County Parks and Recreation, visit www.destinationoakland.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.