2011 Annual Report
Every person who visits one of the
13 Oakland County Parks has a story to
tell—whether it’s a first-time visitor or the
golfer who has played at Glen Oaks Golf
Course for 30+ years.
What they have in common is experiencing
the benefits of outdoor recreation at
Oakland County Parks and Recreation.
The Oakland County
Parks and Recreation
dedicated to providing
and promote the
protection of natural
In biennial countywide
to ask for four main
things: more trails
for walking, hiking,
biking and equestrian
use; high maintenance
standards for facilities
and parks; excellent
customer service; and
green space preserved
for future generations.
Our two campgrounds can create a nostalgic feeling for those who camped at Addison Oaks or
Groveland Oaks as a child. Today, we have three generations of campers who return to enjoy traditions
created around a campfire. Themed weekends enhance the experience and spark the imagination.
Some families make annual visits to our two waterparks for family reunions, birthday parties or
something to do on a hot summer day. The waterparks are also popular destinations for day camps
from Oakland County’s 62 cities, villages and townships.
Golfers return to improve their scores and carve out social time in their busy schedules to spend with
family and friends. Five courses offer challenges for all levels of ability from a nine–hole round at Red
Oaks to 18–hole Arthur Hills designed Lyon Oaks.
Visitors to the Wint Nature Center register for the quarterly “Tuning Your Tot” program to introduce
the 3–6-year-old in their family to the wonders of the seasons. This national award-winning, early
childhood program always includes an outdoor activity to bring the information learned to life.
Whatever the reason, 1.6 million people make Oakland County Parks and Recreation part of their
lifestyle to recreate on their own, participate in a program or attend a special event.
This annual report provides a glimpse of what our visitors experienced in 2011. It focuses our
efforts on five countywide initiatives: Urban Recreation; Rural Recreation; Natural Resources and
Environment; Healthy Living; and Sustainability. These are the main components of our 10–year
Strategic Master Plan that guides planning efforts at all levels of the organization. The initiatives are
based on countywide surveys which consistently reveal that residents desire four main things: more
trails for walking, hiking, biking and equestrian use; high maintenance standards for facilities and parks;
excellent customer service; and green space preserved for future generations.
Behind the scenes, the entire parks staff, 65 full-time and 596 part-time employees, strive to operate
the 13–park system at a world-class level, providing quality programs, facilities and customer service.
Equally important are our nearly 400 volunteers who donate their talent and time to support and
enhance our mission. They are our biggest advocates for everything from natural resources stewardship
to dog park events and greenhouse operations.
Feedback from our visitors is important for making improvements. But sometimes, it’s just good to
hear that people like what we’re doing. Such was the case with a comment card from a Washington state
resident who wrote, “Groveland Oaks is the best public park we have been to in the 35 states and four
providences we have traveled. You have a gem that others should emulate.”
Partnerships with professional organizations also help us reach visitors and enhance recreation
programming. One example is the cooperation with Total Golf Adventure Premier Junior Golf which
holds summer camps at several of our golf courses:
“All of our families had a great time at Sunday’s parent-child event, following another terrific summer of soldout
camp sessions. I really appreciate how everyone is so welcoming and friendly to the kids and their parents.
Everyone at Glen Oaks—pro shop staffers, starters, rangers and restaurant staff—went
out of their way to be helpful, always greeting the kids with a smile.”
Dave Robinson, TGA Territory Director
We look forward to providing quality recreation experiences to our residents and
regional visitors in 2012. Visit DestinationOakland.com to plan a camping trip,
waterpark visit, golf outing and more or find us on Facebook to keep up on
what’s happening in your Oakland County Parks.
Daniel J. Stencil, Executive Officer
Addressing the challenges and
opportunities in creating access
to recreation in urban environments
Addressing the challenges and
opportunities in creating access to
for fun and games
recreation in urban environments
The OCParks Express connects
communities to outdoor recreation
experiences within the parks system.
Trips are offered as a stand-alone
or enhancement for day camps,
senior centers, assisted living/nursing
homes and more. The program
hosted 1,541 individuals with visits
to two waterparks and day-use
parks for swimming, fishing, biking,
geocaching and boating.
Other destinations include the
Waterford Oaks greenhouse and
a stop by the Oakland County
Farmer’s Market so participants can
purchase fresh produce. A tour of
the historic Ellis Barn at Springfield
Oaks includes a visit to Cook’s Farm
Dairy for ice cream.
Seasonal programs include fall color tours through scenic northern Oakland County and the Holiday Light Tour
of outdoor holiday decorations.
“The field trips have allowed our summer program participants who are teens and young adults with Autism
Spectrum Disorder to experience the outdoors. For many, this was the first time they have fished or been on a pedal
boat,” Ann Patronik of the Judson Center, said. “Your staff has been wonderful and flexible in accommodating
our group’s needs. Working for a non-profit, cost is always a deciding factor in our programming and yours is very
Another group that appreciates the time to recreate is adult children of seniors. An accessible pontoon boat
stationed at Independence Oaks allows seniors with limited mobility to experience a tour of Crooked Lake.
“Instead of focusing on health issues, the parent and adult child can both enjoy one another’s company in the
outdoors,” Sandy Dorey, recreation program supervisor, said. “One of our hayride participants was a 95-year-old lady
who had not beeen on a wagon in more than 30 years. She enjoyed the experience so much that she signed up to do
the trip again and attended the Holiday Light Tours too!”
The program’s cost is funded in part by the Recreation Assistance Partnership Program (RAPP). Initiated in 1982,
the program grants bus transportation and mobile recreation unit visits to underserved areas and populations. In
2011, the parks commission committed $150,000 to RAPP.
• The inaugural Red Oaks
BBQ Sizzler event drew
eight teams and 500
spectators for an outdoor
cook-off for prizes.
• Reading Rangers
students at 200 schools
with free waterpark
passes for “March is
• To better serve residents,
Parks and Recreation
opened a new office
in the Southfield
Oakland County Health
adjacent to Catalpa Oaks
No score, no sweat
To encourage new golfers to pick up the sport, Red Oaks Golf Course hosted a “No Score” league. The noncompetitive
environment offered a clinic before tee off and on-course individual instruction. Fitness and golf
fundamentals were emphasized.
“Red Oaks is our only 9-hole course so it’s a great facility for beginners and intermediate golfers,” Laurie Stasiak,
recreation program supervisor, said. “Fun, fellowship and the relaxed flow of the game encourages them to keep golfing.”
Growing green thumbs of tomorrow
To foster green thumbs and create a new revenue source, indoor and outdoor garden plots were leased at the
Waterford Oaks Greenhouse.
The viability of the community garden concept was tested via a partnership with Centro Multicultural de la
Familia to offer a cultural and nutritional program addressing the needs of a community with limited English
proficiency. The result was two thumbs up.
“What people consider recreation evolves as society changes. Gardening is the perfect recreation opportunity for
seniors or those with limited mobility. And, many residents do not have the space to plant a vegetable garden,” Susana
Ditter, greenhouse coordinator, said.
Plots are leased using a lottery system and include tested soil, basic tools, water and gardening education programs
to help ensure a harvest’s success.
Promoting access to recreational
opportunities that are tied to the
landscape of rural Oakland County
Racing pigs and more
After the Michigan State Fair was cancelled because the state could no longer afford to subsidize the 160-year-old
event, many found themselves in search of an experience to fill that void.
“Definitely, the number of adult exhibitors was up this year because they couldn’t show at the state level,”
Oakland County Fair General Manager L.C. Scramlin said. “Ultimately, that loss was our gain. We had a record
attendance of 95,000 visitors this year.”
The five-day event includes a midway with carnival rides, 4–H club exhibits and the Miracle of Birth Barn, a
popular stop for fairgoers to witness the live birth of pigs, calves and lambs. The event has been drawing families to
Springfield Oaks since 1971.
“There’s something for everyone and that’s the draw of the fair,” Scramlin said. “One major success was hosting more
than 900 special needs kids. Other fairs have tried this without much success so we’re doing something right.”
Another “right” was the inaugural Oakland County Idol Contest that drew more than 60 hopefuls competing
for a $500 grand prize.
“This area has rural roots, but a drive through northern Oakland County is more likely to reveal subdivisions
than farms,” Scramlin said. “We can provide a glimpse into our past to see what still sustains us all today—the
farmer and his crops—and teach youth leadership and responsibility at the same time.”
Survey says… ‘safety first’
In biennial surveys, residents consistently respond the parks system “feels safe.” That’s one of the top reasons
more than 1.6 million guests visit the Oakland County Parks each year.
OCPR contracts with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to provide deputy patrols from vehicles, horseback
and mountain bikes. Deputies are assigned to campgrounds, waterparks, day-use parks and large special events
such as Fourth of July Fireworks that draw 10,000 spectators. They also assist with educational efforts like archery
hunting regulations and tree stand compliance; and supervise trusty inmate work crews to maintain and beautify
“We are proactive with guests by providing them with information,” Sergeant Kelly Sexton said. “A campground
is like a mini community. People are living side-by-side and using the same resources. We want that experience to
be as free of concern as possible.”
Flying pumpkins = recreation
Combining the science of engineering and the sheer thrill of tossing produce hundreds of feet in the air is a fall
event that’s become a spectator favorite at the Lake Orion Pumpkin Launch. Throw in Boy Scouts selling hot
chocolate and popcorn and you’ve got all the makings of a good time.
Competitors build trebuchets, medieval blockade weapons similar to catapults, to hurl pumpkins as far as the
gourds will go. The course record—a whopping 1,184 feet—was set by the Masters of Mayhem team. The event
was a partnership with Oakland Ballistics, a group of people who enjoy building medieval weapons.
• “The Blue and Gray”, a
local student’s film shot
at Orion Oaks, won a
View it at channelone.
• In three months and 100
hours, service groups
and scouts helped
the parks system save
$12,000 by replacing
a pedestrian bridge at
• Lewis E. Wint Nature
Center was named one of
the top 10 nature centers in
Southeastern Michigan by
Metro Parent Magazine
• Seasonal natural resources
are provided free to
communities and libraries
• A free Christmas tree
recycling program annually
saves 3,000 trees from
Parks Commissioners ceremoniously return fish to Upper
Bushman Lake to dedicate Independence Oaks-North.
Fishing for the future
For more than 35 years, the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission had its
proverbial “eye” on 188 acres in northern Oakland County. The property, owned by only
one family since the 1940s, is adjacent to Independence Oaks County Park.
Once the property was acquired in 2010, parks staff constructed a boardwalk and dock
that provides a spectacular view of 31-acre Upper Bushman Lake in the headwaters of the
Clinton River. The lake, which had never been publicly fished, is home to large-mouth bass,
bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass, bullhead catfish, northern pike and crappie.
It’s that unique fishing habitat the parks system hopes to preserve for future generations.
“Implementation of enforceable catch-and-release fishing will offer an unmatched public
fishing experience, the first and only in Oakland County and the Southeastern Michigan region,”
Executive Officer Dan Stencil said. “The initiative will steward fisheries in the Upper Clinton River
Watershed within the Clinton Green Corridor in an ecologically-sustainable way.”
On April 1, 2012 an enforceable catch-and-release regulation will take effect, per Michigan
Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Order 244, by order of the MDNR Director.
New England Aster–
It’s not just the water feature that makes Independence Oaks-North a high quality outdoor space. The one of the native
property is a Michigan Natural Features Inventory Priority One Conservation Area containing rare natural seeds species collected
at Highland Oaks
communities such as Southern Wet Meadow, Wet-Mesic Prairie, Prairie Fen and Hardwood-Conifer Swamp.
Independence Oaks-North was acquired with a $945,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources
Trust Fund; a $105,000 Carl’s Foundation grant via a partnership and a two-acre donation with Ducks Unlimited;
and a $16,000 donation from the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy. A Passive Recreation and Pathway
License with the Interstate Transmission Company allows for future trail connectivity within the park.
Combating invasive species
Dogs, decoys on payroll
Australian Shepherds Madison and Chase have made a significant impact on goose
control at Oakland County Parks and Recreation’s golf courses.
The working dogs are used for abatement purposes May–June 15 and again early
August–November, chasing geese away from golf courses to reduce health risks to golfers
A Michigan Department of Natural Resources goose count performed in the early 1990s
found 300 geese at just one course, according to Park Supervisor Skip Roche. Today, regular
patrol by the dogs has reduced the number of geese using the course to 12.
Staff educates golfers that the dogs aren’t just visiting for playtime. A decal on Roche’s
work truck reads, “Working dog on board.”
“I can tell you they are the celebrities of the golf course,” he said. “We have gotten so
many compliments about what a good job they do.”
At other locations, plastic replicas of a full-sized coyote, complete with faux-fur tail, are
staked in areas where a reduction in goose presence is desired.
Removing swallow-wort, a new invasive plant heavily impacting the northwest part of Oakland County,
was the focus of another partnership. Oakland County Parks and Recreation successfully landed a 2011 Americorps
Student Service Grant in conjunction with the Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy, North Oakland Headwaters
Land Conservancy, Michigan Nature Association, and Highland, Rose and
The Americorps student team canvased nearly 180 acres at two parks removing
the plant, also known as dog-strangling vine, due to its dense, tangling behavior.
Counting birds and butterflies
Oakland County Parks provides important habitat for rare and notable species
like the red-shouldered hawk and yellow rail. These birds were observed during the
annual Oakland Audubon Bird Counts. The Eastern Bluebird is on the rise
at several parks due to a volunteer nest box monitoring program.
The system also participates in the North American Butterfly Association’s
annual count in partnership with the Six River Regional Land Conservancy.
This year the Giant Swallowtail and Baltimore Checkerspot were
tallied in the count.
Photos top and bottom right by John Meyland
Promoting access to high quality
natural areas through the stewardship
of the county’s green infrastructure vision
River walking ROCKS!
Sometimes, accommodations just need a little creativity to make an experience happen. Such was the case
of programming the River Ride at Red Oaks Waterpark, a 990-foot-long moving river. Recreation Program
Supervisor Sandy Dorey said walking the river is excellent exercise for those who have had recent knee surgery
or have mobility issues.
Resident Jan Kobert said the unique program enabled her to enjoy the summer months again.
“What an amazing program. You had a way for me to walk more than 2,000 feet in water with my oxygen
tank. What a great change from the last two years of pulmonary rehab,” Kobert said. “Between the golf league
at Red Oaks for individuals with disabilities and the River Walk I am finally getting out and enjoying my
summer again after two years of being inside playing video games. Thank you to Oakland County Parks and
Recreation for helping me become active outdoors again.”
The River Walk was featured by A Wider World, a public broadcasting system television show that focuses on
programs for individuals with disabilities.
Inclusion services and programming by the Adaptive Recreation staff provides recreational and leisure
opportunities for all residents of Oakland County. Certified therapeutic recreation specialists partner with more
than 30 disabled sports organizations, non-profits and schools to offer a wide range of activities.
Adaptive equipment, to help facilitate an experience, includes single rider golf carts, hand-operated pedal
boats, water transfer chairs, cross-country skis and seat canes. A pontoon boat facilitates nature and fishing
opportunities. Wheelchair-accessible cabins offer an overnight camping experience and kids of all ages and
abilities can experience Paradise Peninsula Playscape, a universally-accessible playground at Waterford Oaks.
Walking for health, prizes
Connie Hoffman has walked the Orion Oaks Dog Park trails nearly every morning for the past nine years,
and this year, her ritual paid off.
Hoffman was the grand prize winner of the 2011 Oakland County Walk Michigan Program. She won a stay
on Mackinac Island and participated in the Labor Day Bridge Walk with Governor Rick Snyder.
Walk Michigan is a statewide non-competitive program established by the Michigan Recreation and Park
Association and administered in communities throughout the state to promote healthy lifestyles and physical
There were 1,476 miles walked within the Oakland County Parks system during a two-month period by
more than 500 contestants.
A twist on camping
Promoting the role of recreation in
supporting quality of life and active
lifestyles of residents and visitors
Two themed programs have campers packing pumpkins and costumes along with their tents.
Boo Bash and Haunted Hallows weekends take advantage of the fall color change and cooler weather to
stir up some non-scary fun. Activities include trick-or-treating, campsite decorating, fireside stories and contests
like pumpkin carving, gourd painting and doughnut-on-a-string eating.
“We’ve had people set up their own haunted houses as well as inflatable pumpkins and ghosts outside their
campers. Some created great graveyard scenes,” Park Supervisor Boyd Brokenshaw said. “It’s fun for everybody
and fulfills our guests’ desire for ‘just one more’ camping weekend before they put away their tents and trailers.”
Keeping skiers safe
• The Warren family of
Florida traveled 3,185
miles by bike to attend
the Great Lakes National
BMX Race at Waterford
Oaks and promote
bicycle motocross as a
• Golfer Richard Jorgensen
has played Glen Oaks
Golf Course for 35 years
as a league member.
When the snow falls at
hiking trails remain busy.
Most of the trails are
converted to cross-country
ski use and patrolled for
guest safety. The ski patrol
at Independence Oaks
County Park, established
in 1978, is the first of
its kind in Southeastern
Four National Ski Patrollers and
14 volunteers traverse nearly 10 miles of
trails. The unit was named Best Small Patrol
by the Eastern Michigan Region of the
National Ski Patrol.
The park offers groomed trails, rental
equipment and “Learn-to-Ski” schools to
entice more guests to try the winter sport.
social and fiscal practices that will help
ensure long-term viability
The Ellis Barn was originally built on Dixie Highway in Clarkston.
The barn was dismantled piece by piece, moved and reassembled
by ex-Amish barnwrights at Springfield Oaks in 2005.
Backdrop for romance
For the summer nuptials of Sarah Showler and Dennis Twaddle, it was all about location, location, location.
Theirs was the first wedding held at the historic Ellis Barn, a 14,000-square-foot Madawaska Twin Barn
built in 1883. Six generations of the Ellis Family loved and valued the local landmark. Now, new families can
incorporate the centerpiece at Springfield Oaks County Park into their own love stories.
The Showler-Twaddle wedding helped staff assess and develop rental packages for future weddings at the barn.
Opportunities like these will help ensure sustainable use of the historic structure.
• Social media tools,
like Facebook and
Groupon, are used
to generate golfing,
camping and waterpark
revenue, offering visitors
Photo by Creative Elements Design Studio
The early bird saves the budgetary worm
Budgetary constraints and reduced tax revenues, felt by parks and recreation departments across the United
States, pushed back many projects in 2010. In response, a 15-year forecast for Oakland County Parks and
Recreation’s capital improvement and major maintenance projects was developed.
“We look at a 40-year historic average of $2.5 -$3 million for capital improvement and at least
$1 million for maintenance annually,” Chief of Park Facilities Maintenance and Development Mike Donnellon
said. “Capital improvement means adding new facilities or replacing fully depreciated existing facilities that cost
more than $10,000, like the installation of a new waterslide or restroom facility. Maintenance is fixing what’s
already there, such as roofing or pavement repair.”
Forecasting earlier allows for opportunities to identify and secure partnerships, sponsorships or grants,
begin business plans and identify operational savings ideas. Maintenance projects are grouped systemwide to
realize significant cost savings.
“We know asphalt shingles have a 20–25-year life span so 10 years after a roof is shingled, we forecast out its
replacement,” Donnellon said. “We need that attention to detail so nothing is missed.”
Currently the parks staff improves, maintains and manages more than 200 facilities, buildings and structures
within its 6,700 acres.
“Maintenance of and improvement to existing facilities remains a consistently high priority as indicated
through our county-wide recreation needs assessment surveys. Our visitors are telling us that they want clean,
safe, well-maintained facilities,” he said.
The gift of recreation
A technology initiative has made gifting the outdoors much easier. Rechargeable
gift cards, which can be purchased and accepted at most park locations, were
launched as a component of the system’s Information Technology Roadmap.
“People like the ease of buying the gift cards online and having them mailed to
their home. Previously they had to drive to a park or golf course to buy a paper
gift certificate,” Business Development Representative for Internal Services
Phil Castonia said. “The cards also provide more flexibility and can be used
for annual vehicle permits, golf green fees, waterpark admission and programs.
This initiative has brought us current with modern technology.”
Visioning the future
Historically, Waterford Oaks has been the home of many firsts—the
first wave-action pool and refrigerated toboggan run in Michigan
and the first bicycle motocross track and greenhouse operations
for the parks system. Staff has found that these incubation efforts
are best managed close-to-home, as Waterford
Oaks is also home to the park system’s administrative complex.
Continuing that trend, Waterford Oaks is the first in a new
generation of park master plans being developed by Oakland County
Parks and Recreation staff. With the input of all sections of the
organization, these 10-year plans provide a comprehensive
look at the resources of the county parks and the role they
play in achieving the parks system’s mission.
The revised Waterford Oaks Master Plan
considers financial sustainability, business
planning, phasing of facility development and an
The master plan documents existing
park conditions, recreational need, other
local plans and forecasted trends. This
information is used to formulate a set of
park concepts, thus serving as long-term
vision for park development.
Additionally, the five-year Recreation
Master Plan update process was initiated.
Both plans are being completed by fulltime
staff and part-time project advisors,
leveraging expertise in key areas.
W. Romeo Rd., Leonard
Conference Center: 248.693.8305
Greenfield Rd., Southfield
Dixie Highway, Holly
Milford Rd., Highland
Sashabaw Road, Clarkston
Nature Center: 248.625.6473
Pontiac Trail, Wixom
Clarkston Road, Lake Orion
RED OAKS WATERPARK
13 Mile Road, Madison Heights
Fish Lake Rd., Holly
Andersonville Rd., Davisburg
Watkins Lake Road, Waterford
Scott Lake Road, Waterford
13 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills
Pontiac Trail, Wixom
John R, Madison Heights
Andersonville Rd., Davisburg
WHITE LAKE OAKS
Williams Lake Rd., White Lake
HICKORY RIDGE RD.
NORTH HOLLY RD.
FISH LAKE RD.
BUCKHORN LK. RD.
ROSE CENTER RD.
OLD PLANK RD.
DUCK LAKE RD.
Gerald A. Fisher, Chairman
John P. McCulloch, Vice Chairman
J. David VanderVeen, Secretary
Pecky D. Lewis, Jr., Chairperson Emeritus
A. David Baumhart III
Gary R. McGillivray
Eric S. Wilson
Daniel J. Stencil, Executive Officer
2800 Watkins Lake Road
Waterford, MI 48328–1917
GRANGE HALL RD.
WHITE LAKE RD.
UNION LAKE RD.
WILLIAMS LAKE RD.
SEYMOUR LAKE RD.
13 MILE RD.
PONTIAC LK. RD.
ORCHARD LAKE RD.
ORCHARD LAKE RD.
Founded in 1966, the Oakland County
Parks and Recreation Commission is
the policy-making board that oversees
the system’s 6,700 acres. Commissioners
are tasked with allocating resources over
13 parks, and making decisions about
purchasing park land, constructing
facilities, preserving maintenance
standards and developing innovative
programs and services.
Find us on
OAKS CLARKSTON RD.
SCOTT LAKE RD.
12 MILE RD.
CATALPA Catalpa Ave
11 MILE RD. OAK
14 MILE RD.
13 MILE RD.
JOHN R RD.
Pecky D. Lewis, Jr. was named
Outstanding Public Official by the
National Association of County Parks
and Recreation Officials.
Former Executive Officer Ralph
Richard was inducted into the
Michigan Recreation and Park
Association Hall of Fame.
MRPA Community Service Awards
were granted to North Oakland
Headwaters Land Conservancy,
equestrian Sharon Greene and metal
detector Dennis Rahn.
Independence Oaks Nordic Ski
Patrol given Best Small Patrol Award
from the Eastern Michigan Region of
the National Ski Patrol.
Photo by John Meyland
FY2011 Actual Expense
FY2011 Actual Revenue
Charges for Services
Printed with vegetablebased
inks on recycled
paper by United
Graphics, Mattoon, IL
The Oakland County
Parks and Recreation
and activities without
regard to race, color,
sex, religion, national
origin, age, marital
status or handicap.
The Oakland County
Parks and Recreation
comply with the
Disabilities Act and
assist individuals with
The owner of a
pays $21 annually
to support Oakland
County Parks and
Addison Oaks County Park