Michigan to commemorate 100th anniversary of state park system
Crawford County’s two state parks, Hartwick Pines and North Higgins, celebrate the logging era and early forestry efforts
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Camping. Swimming. Fishing. Picnicking. Hiking through forest trails and enjoying the fresh air. Campfires. Memories with friends and family.
Michigan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its state park system this year, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging people to share their favorite state park memories “while making new ones.”
“On May 12, 1919, the Michigan Legislature established the Michigan State Park Commission, paving the way for our state parks system. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is celebrating this milestone throughout the year with special events, podcasts, historical stories, videos, geocaching, and more,” according to the DNR.
Online at Michigan.gov/StateParks100, the DNR is offering places to share stories and view memories people have already submitted. The site has a schedule of centennial events for many of the 100-plus state parks in Michigan.
Crawford County has two state parks within its boundaries: Hartwick Pines State Park and North Higgins Lake State Park.
Hartwick Pines – located two miles east of I-75 on M-93 – is one of the oldest and one of the largest state parks in the state of Michigan.
According to an article in the July 25, 1935 edition of the Crawford County Avalanche, “The Edward E. Hartwick Pines Park was presented to the State of Michigan October 5, 1927, by Mrs. Karen B. Hartwick, as a memorial in honor of her husband, Major Edward E. Hartwick, who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of his country during the world war.”
The first to be added to the state park system was Interlochen State Park in 1919, according to the DNR. The state added 13 parks in 1920, eight in 1921 through 1923, three in 1924 (including Higgins Lake State Park), one in 1925, and two in 1926, according to the DNR.
Hartwick Pines was one of three parks added to the system in 1927 along with Ludington State Park and Wilderness State Park, according to the DNR.
“The park embraces about 80 acres of virgin pine forest and a total of about 8,000 acres of cut-over land that at one time produced the finest white pine forest Michigan has ever seen,” according to an article in the October 13, 1927 edition of the Crawford County Avalanche. “By the generosity of Mrs. Hartwick the perpetuity of this magnificent tract of pine forest, the last standing vestige of Michigan’s old pinery days, is assured. The people of Michigan and other states may be privileged to come here and enjoy the grandeur of the huge stately pine trees and to visualize in their minds now Northern Michigan looked fifty years ago.”
In 1935, the community conducted an official dedication ceremony for Hartwick Pines.
“The Edward E. Hartwick Pines Park was officially dedicated in a solemn and dignified ceremony Friday afternoon as part of Michigan’s great park system. Governor Frank D. Fitzgerald gave the dedicatory address and P.J. Hoffmaster, director of conservation, unveiled the tablet which makes the park part and parcel of Michigan’s park system,” according to an article in the July 25, 1935 edition of the Crawford County Avalanche. “Here is a magnificent heritage for the future generations who will enjoy it.”
Today, Hartwick Pines State Park offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors.
“Hartwick Pines is a great destination for paddling, mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, camping, hiking, picnicking, birding, hunting, fishing and exploring Michigan’s great outdoors,” according to www.michigan.org.
Hartwick Pines features several special events throughout the summer including Forest Fest, Wood Shaving Days, and Black Iron Days. Events feature the park’s sawmill in operation, arts and crafts, blacksmiths, live music, access to the park’s Visitor Center and Logging Museum, and other forest-themed activities.
This year’s Black Iron Days festival – slated for August 24-25 – will feature a celebration as part of Michigan’s state park centennial, according to Friends of Hartwick Pines.
Michigan added Higgins Lake State Park to its system in 1924, according to the DNR. The park, located on the south end of the lake, led to the creation of a second park on the north shore of Higgins Lake. The second site – a state forest campground at first – was incorporated into the system as North Higgins Lake State Park in 1965, according to the DNR.
North Higgins Lake State Park – located near the southern border of Crawford County at 11747 N. Higgins Lake Drive – has two campground areas, hiking trails, a beach, a boat launch, a playground, and a pavilion. It has “almost one mile of frontage” on Higgins Lake, according to the DNR.
North Higgins Lake State Park, less than one mile east of its campground/beach area, has a series of interpretive trails, monuments, and buildings dedicated to the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), tree planting efforts in Michigan in the early 1900s, and forest fire fighting innovations.
“North Higgins Lake State Park was the site of a huge experimental reforestation effort that helped produce the forests that Michigan residents and visitors enjoy today. The Higgins Lake State Nursery (was) the first seedling nursery in Michigan and, in its heyday, one of the largest in the world. It changed Michigan’s forests by jumpstarting both the reforestation of land impacted by logging and fires and the discipline of scientific forest management,” according to the DNR.
The area features a Michigan Registered Historic Site sign. It reads: “A concern over the depletion of Michigan’s forests led in 1899 to the creation of a forestry commission. In 1903 the first state forest was set up by the legislature on cut-over, burned-over lands in Roscommon and Crawford counties. The same year also saw the start of organized forest fire protection and the establishment of Higgins Lake Nursery at its present site. Thus began the program of reforestation in Michigan.”
In addition to the CCC Museum – a tribute to “the more than 100,000 young men who lived and worked in 125 Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Michigan” and “some of the thousands of conservation projects they completed to protect and create Michigan’s forests, streams, and parks” – the North Higgins site also features two other CCC monuments and other historic buildings and artifacts relevant to the state’s early efforts involving seed planting and fire fighting. The site also has hiking trails.
The DNR currently does not have a special event listed for North Higgins Lake State Park for the centennial celebration.
Inside this edition of the Crawford County Avalanche is a special eight-page section devoted to the 100th anniversary of Michigan’s state park system. The section features two articles from the DNR about the beginning of the state park system, an article about North Higgins Lake State Park, and more information on the history of Hartwick Pines State Park. View it online here: http://crawfordcountyavalanche.com/michigan-state-park-system-100th-anni...