Since the establishment of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in 1966, there has historically been little cultural diversity among visitors to the 42 mile long park comprised of pristine cliffs, beaches and dunes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This situation may change due to a new program at Pictured Rocks that began earlier this summer.
Through a “Building Common Ground” grant from the National Park Foundation, education ranger David Kronk hosted 30 family members for a week long ranger guided trip this June. Participants hailed from the Detroit area, roughly an eight hour drive from the park.
Shelton Johnson, the award winning Yosemite National Park interpreter, was quoted in a Detroit newspaper interview during a visit there to his hometown. He said he doesn’t believe many inner city urban residents travel great distances to National Parks as adults, unless they had done so as children. He felt fortunate that his parents did so with him and that is how he got his interest in National Parks. With this idea in mind, Kronk contacted Detroit area families through Wayne State University.
The trip consisted of fun-packed days canoeing in a wilderness, a boat cruise on Lake Superior, and running down sand dunes. The group hiked along the Pictured Rocks cliffs and strolled on wild beaches.
A dinner was held for the Detroit visitors at the local Alger County Heritage Center in Munising. The evening included a presentation by a Dr. Russ Magnaghi of Northern Michigan University about the many cultures that had settled in the Central Upper Peninsula. Residents from Detroit presented some of their family stories from slave days to the present. Native American Anishnabe leaders performed a smudging ceremony to encourage a sense of ownership by all people of our Nation for the wondrous area known as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Plans are unfolding and enthusiasm is high to raise funds to keep this urban - National Lakeshore connection continuing next year.