Outdoor recreation thrives in the City of Lansing

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A bright day at Potter Park. Photo Credit: Cassandra Bondie

Ask a resident or visitor about recreational activities in the City of Lansing. You’ll likely hear more than you expected.

Lansing is home to numerous parks, bodies of water and non-motorized trails, making it a popular place for outdoor recreational activities during all seasons.

One commonly visited park is Hawk Island Park, located on Cavanaugh Road. At Hawk Island Park, visitors can rent rowboats and peddle boats, swim on the beach, enjoy picnic areas and splash parks, play horseshoes or snow tube in the winter.

Another well-traveled path is the Lansing River Trail, which stretches from Waverly Road to Old Town. The trail also connects Potter Park and Michigan State University. In total, more than 20 miles of paved trail passes through parks, nature and downtown Lansing.

“We frequent the River Trail,” Candace Ewing, a Lansing resident, said of herself and her family. “That stretches all over Lansing, including Hawk Island. We like the walking trails that are in different parts of the city. There’s even a little walking area we stumbled on by chance the other day…it’s really beautiful.”

Ewing, who has lived in Lansing her entire life, is a fan of recreational venues in the area.

“I love all of the options,” she said. “I love all the park options and the trail options. I like how maintained everything is. Overall, I think the city tries to keep it clean and tidy and safe.”

Residents and visitors alone, however, aren’t the only Lansing regulars who benefit from the scenery. Businesses benefit as well.

“We are a canoe and kayak delivery service,” Paul Brogan, the co-owner of River Town Adventures, said of his company. “We rent canoes, kayaks, tandem kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.”

According to Brogan, business has boomed since River Town Adventures’ opening in 2014.

“We started pretty small time,” he said. “We started with eight kayaks and six canoes. We noticed some others using the river, but I think a lot of people weren’t aware of the opportunities out there. Our business just kept getting busier as people realized they can come out here and it’s not bad [boating] in an urban environment.”

Brogan believes he’s seen an increasing amount of overall activity in the area.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of others out there with their own boats,” he said. “I would say increased fishing, boating, and activity in the downtown area. I think people are realizing there are access points to the rivers, there are lots of areas to explore, and when you’re on the river, even in the middle of the city, you’re out in nature.”

Brogan claims navigating water in the City of Lansing is relatively easy, bringing tourists, visitors, children and seniors alike to the shoreline.

“We get a little bit of everyone, for sure,” he said. “The activity is great for children and families. It really is a sport that anyone can do, especially on the rivers around here. They’re very calm. You don’t have to worry about having a high skill level.”

Sarah Nicholls, an associate professor at Michigan State University, is currently out of the country. However, as an expert in recreation with years of experience in the Lansing area, she was happy to share her insights via email.

“Trail-based activities are growing especially rapidly,” she shared. “Also growing in many areas are craft breweries and distilleries.”

Nicholls went on to explain the draw to non-motorized trails.

“Opportunities to engage in physical activity in a safer space than along roads,” she listed. “Quieter than walking/biking along roads. Opportunities to see/hear/experience nature in the city. When there are loops in the trail, it provides for more options than simply walking/running around a track. Non-motorized trails also provide an alternate means of transportation for residents and visitors.”

Nicholls believes outdoor recreation in the City of Lansing is growing.

“[It’s] growing in popularity and also in terms of offerings,” she said. “The millage passed a few years back supports 20 million dollars’ worth of spending on water and land-based trails across the county.”

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