Planning begins for park’s anniversary

PRESQUE ISLE – The Friends of Thompson’s Harbor State Park and the Department of Natural Resources are working on plans to celebrate the park’s silver anniversary.

In honor of the 5,000-plus acre state park’s formation 25 years ago, the friends group is planning a day of events on May 11, group President Mike Grohowski said. Group member Bill Grigg is spearheading plans for the day. He and other members discussed the day’s agenda at a meeting in the Presque Isle Harbor Association Clubhouse Wednesday night.

The celebration has been in the work for a few months, Grohowski said, and its aim is to draw people to the state park.

“It’s just to make more people aware of the uniqueness of the park, and have them spend a day out there,” he said.

DNR Cheboygan Field Office Manager Dave Stempky attended, along with Hoeft State Park Supervisor Blake Gingrich and field office Manager Patrick Rogers. Stempky and Gingrich answered Grigg’s questions about what the department could do to help with the celebration, as well as fielding a few others.

Activities planned so far range from guided tours to see the park’s birding spots and other natural features, including a quaking bog and various wildflowers, Grigg said. Thompson’s Harbor State Park is strewn with dwarf lake irises in the late spring and early summer months, and the celebration is timed to coincide with their blooming, Grohowski said. While the flowers are easily found in the park, they’re considered a threatened species by state and federal laws.

There will be an open house at Stone Path Cabin, with DNR employees giving out samples of ice cream and bottled water, according to a list of proposed events. Cooking for a Cause might also be there to sell food, Grigg said. The mobile food cart business would donate most of its proceeds from the day to Friends of Thompson’s Harbor State Park.

Volunteers could hand out maps to nearby attractions, including both Presque Isle lighthouses and Rockport State Recreation Area, Grigg said.

The celebration necessitates having a safety plan, Stempky said. Among other aspects, formulating one involves contacting local hospitals and a veterinary clinics to see if they have antivenom for the Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Michigan’s only native venomous snake is known to make its home in the park.

“We’re going to have kids running around, and we know we have snakes in there,” he said. “If somebody gets bit we need to know what to do.”

Grigg said he’d made some progress on this, including determining that Posen Area Fire and Rescue would be the emergency responders in the event of an accident.

The DNR will be working on improving a road that runs from the park’s west entrance to Lake Huron’s shore, Stempky said. Once finished, there will be a five-car parking spot at the end of the road, with an outhouse located nearby. The road leading back there will be repaired to make it passable. Any fill material used on the road must be limestone-based to avoid disturbing any areas where the dwarf lake iris grows.

Stempky recently received a permit needed to do this kind of work in the habitat of endangered species, and he’s looking to partner with the Presque Isle County Road Commission, he said. The DNR would cover the road commission’s fuel and wages for the project, although the exact terms of the agreement have not yet been set. There also should be opportunities for the friends group members to help.

The DNR would like to begin as soon as possible, likely in the spring, Stempky said. He and Grigg discussed the need to coordinate the construction and celebration activities to make sure one doesn’t interfere with the other.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.