Is there anything better than a spring day (or spring-like winter day) spent at the park? You can swing with the breeze blowing your hair back. You can have a picnic while enjoying a great book. You can walk, run or ride a bike for pleasure or fitness. The options are endless. Of course, living in or near a city usually means you’re out of luck. Not so in Portage. While Portage is no Detroit or Grand Rapids, it’s a decent sized city. It’s also a town where you’ll see deer and other wildlife roaming sometimes because of the wilderness inside city limits. The city uses that wilderness for the benefit of its population in the form of awesome parks, playgrounds and trails. Let’s explore the Portage City Parks system.
One of the most traveled trails is the Portage Creek Bicentennial Trail. The paved trail stretches from the Kalamazoo/Portage border down to Celery Flats, meandering through woods and swamp. You can even walk over Milham Road and watch the cars buzz under you (a hit with young kids). The trail follows the Portage Creek, which you can kayak in if you fancy. Or it’s just a great place to stop and check out a bubbling creek for a little relaxation. Several smaller trails actually split from the main, paved trail and take you back through wildflowers and other vegetation to sitting areas along the creek. Back on the main trail, you’ll find leisurely bicyclists, fitness bikers, rollerbladers, runners, walkers and pet walkers all enjoying a little paradise in the city. Because the trail has mile markers along the 4 mile length, you can figure out the perfect distance for your walk, run or ride.
Several parks in the Portage system feature great picnic areas and playgrounds. As a dad with 2 young girls, I can tell you the playgrounds are premier in the Portage City Parks system. The park on Milham Road is often hopping with the 4-to-12 years old crowd. Ramona Park is actually on a lake and has a great sandy beach (there’s a cost to get in because they also have lifeguards). Millennium Park on Romence Road is great during the summer or winter – the fountain and pond is perfect for ice skating when it’s cold, or enjoying a cold treat when it’s warm (Ritter’s Frozen Custard is across the street). Then there’s the almost-secret Harbors West Park off Milham Road near U.S. 131. This great little park has a nice playground, but also features a roller-hockey rink and a pair of half-court basketball hoops.
Looking for a little more natural setting to enjoy the awesome setting of a Michigan spring? Try out Bishop’s Bog Preserve or the West Lake Nature Preserve. Both of these options are great if you want to avoid the runners and riders and want to explore a bit of wilderness.
One cool part of the park system is Celery Flats. There you’ll find an interepretive center if you’d like to learn more about the nature you’re seeing along the trail. You can also attend shows there during the summer. Looking for a space to rent for a big event? Try the Hayloft Theatre. One of my favorite memories along the trail is walking on a date with the woman who became my wife. We had dinner nearby and walked the trail before going to a movie. It’s a great date-night destination!
So if you’re looking to get away for a lunch break in Portage, or you’d like to enjoy a nice evening stroll, check out one of the many Portage City Park playgrounds, trails or preserves. But watch out for deer. ~Dan Moyle, Contributing Writer