By: Laura Genouw
Community residents of Clinton County, Mich., can fulfill their need for outdoor adventure and fresh air at the large 2,678 acre Sleepy Hollow State Park located in Laingsburg, located off highway US-127.
Sleepy Hollow State Park lies on man-made Lake Ovid, which was created by damming Little Maple River. This river is a long river that runs throughout the state park.
Tim Machowicz, an employee at the Sleep Hollow State Park, said that the park was created in the late 60s and early 70s. He said, Lake Ovid was created as a flood control to help protect the crops in the agricultural society of Clinton County.
“When they saw a big dark spot on the map, they decided to combine with the flood control project and created a state park around the lake,” Machowicz said. “It became an official state park in 1977.”
Machowicz said that the location for the state park and Lake Ovid project was chosen because there was a large gap on the map with no state parks in nearby areas. Choosing this area filled the void in the map.
“This park is a big draw for the community,” Machowicz said. “We made $395,000 in individual visits last year.”
Barry Jubek, president of the Friends for Sleepy Hollow volunteer program, and Machowicz both told the story of how Sleepy Hollow got its name. Both men said that a farmer that owned property on the land where the state park was created had the E.D. Crane, a popular character from the well-known tale of Sleepy Hollow. His name led them to think of the old legend and pick Sleepy Hollow for the name of the state park.
Jubek said that on an average weekend, there are around 800 campers that visit the Sleepy Hollow State Park. He said that the state park has an 18-hole disk golf course that attracts players and teams from all over the world. Michigan State University’s very own rowing races have also been held on Lake Ovid in the past, according to Jubek.
Many seasonal activities for both winter and summer draw the community of Clinton County to this trail filled state park. Activities such as cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, equestrian, fishing, hunting, paddling, swimming and hiking are available to all the state park’s visitors.
According to the Sleepy Hollow State Park website, among the most popular trails are the hiking trail, which runs about 16 miles in length, and the equestrian trail, which runs about 6.5 miles in length.
The Sleepy Hollow State Park has many facilities to include a beach along Lake Ovid, boat launch, various concession stands, picnic areas and numerous restrooms throughout the park.
The state park website claims that there have been more than 228 species recorded in the limits of the park, the rare Bald Eagle which is the official United States bird included.
Events held by the Sleepy Hollow State Park include the Interpretive Hike, a guided hike along a 23-mile long trail system, is held on April 20. On April 21, there is an Introduction to Trees hike, which teaches participants about all the different tree species found in the area of the park.
Machowicz said that because of the large draw that the Sleepy Hollow State Park brings to the Clinton County community there have been recent expansions to the park, to bring it to its full potential. He said that in 2010, due to redesigned park areas, there were 2 miles of road left abandoned. They used this abandoned land to create new trails. The equestrian trail was also recently expanded.
“We are in the review process to see if there is more expansion available,” Machowicz said. “We want to convert some of the paved trails near picnic and beach areas so not only mountain bikes can take these trails, regular bikes can be used as well.”
Along with expansion, the Sleepy Hollow State Park has created “Green Initiatives” which involve using bio-based fuels, building energy efficient buildings, and mowing less.
Among the Pilot Projects working toward “Green Initiatives” are the Water Conservation Program, the Clean Marina Program, adding product-metering devices, Green Buildings, Growing Not Mowing, Bio Products, Recycling at the Parks and Recreation Office, Cleaning Green and the Biological Control of Non-native Species Program.
The Cleaning Green Program includes the use of green-certified cleaning products used in the park facilities to protect the surrounding nature. The Biological Control of Non-native Species program was started to combat an invasive weed species in Lake Ovid. According to the state park website this is done by using a small beetle species and planting them into Lake Ovid.
Machowicz said that 95 percent of the cleaning chemicals used at the park have been converted to green products. He also said that the regular oil used in vehicles, such as tractors, have been changed to a soy-based product.
Sleepy Hollow State Park also has a volunteer program that plans events for the park and takes care of its nature. The program is called Friends of Sleepy Hollow.
Friends of Sleepy Hollow has been run by president, Barry Jubek, for the last 10 years. Jubek said that although not many young residents want to volunteer their time and get involved, there are many older members from the community that join the voluntary program.
“Our group really meets the needs of the community,” Jubek said. “We have done some many things that we never would have thought possible. Things can happen from nothing.”
Jubek said the Friends of Sleepy Hollow group has added $8,000 worth of sand to the beach and has started outreach programs with inner-city children. The Friends of Sleep Hollow group meets the first Saturday of every month.
Jubek pointed to the example of a woman named Liz, an essential member of the Friends of Sleepy Hollow Program who was responsible for fundraising the money needed to buy an AED defibrillator for the campsites at Sleep Hollow within two months.
The Friends of Sleepy Hollow volunteers plan many events, such as the 4th of July event, Harvest Festival and Ichabod Crane Days in the month of October.
Secretary of the Friends of Sleepy Hollow group, Rosemary Pasch, said local businesses support park initiatives. An example is the “Grab a Sack- Bring It Back” program. This program places wooden plastic bag dispensers throughout the park. It is sponsored by local businesses who pay $100 per year in subscriptions.
Another example is the construction of a playground, donation and instillation of a flagpole and flag, combined with 30 shade trees in the beach area, and purchasing a wood carved sculpture of a black bear named “Sleepy”, which is about 8 feet tall.
Friends of Sleepy Hollow has also planted one acre of wildflowers by the East Picnic area, which earned them a Certification of Appreciation of Monarch Butterfly Way Station for Sleepy Hollow State Park.
Friends of Sleepy Hollow costs $10 per year to join and depends on volunteers for work and donations.
Tim Machowicz, 517-651-6217
Barry Jubek, Friends of Sleepy Hollow President, 517-651-6363
Rosemary Pasch, Friends of Sleepy Hollow Secretary, 517-643-2702
Sleepy Hollow State Park website, http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=495