One of the great joys of living in Southeastern Michigan is the Huron-Clinton Metro Park system. This is a regional park system with 13 different parks in several counties.
Any nature fan who has a few hours to spare in the Northwest Suburbs, then do yourself a favor and check out Kensington Metro Park. It is located in Milford and has easy access to the I-96 expressway.
If one is just looking for a place to picnic and let the children stretch their legs in the fresh air, then a stop here to sit at one of the picnic tables nestled along Kent Lake or near the Farm would be ideal. There is playground equipment spread throughout the park, mostly simply swings and monkey bars, but for a child who has been travelling it will be a welcome diversion.
Families also might enjoy the farm. The farm is very small and very accessible, featuring paved paths for strollers, etc. You can see chickens, goats, cows, sheep and majestic draft horses. At certain days on the weekend, you can also enjoy a brief, wagon ride here also. The information area inside the barn lets children explore some hands-on activities and learn about life on a farm and the history of this area.
For those who enjoy a walk through the woods, you will enjoy the Nature Center and trail system. There are several well-marked, well-groomed wood-chip and dirt trails through the woods and meadows. Trails range in length from 1/2 mile to two miles, with the possibility of connecting trails to lengthen the walk. This might be more difficult for certain strollers. There are brief markers throughout explaining a certain natural feature which early readers seem to really enjoy. There is nothing quite like standing in the early morning on a spring Saturday, with the sun streaming through the maple trees and imagining the farmers who used to own the property standing off in the distance tending the fields. It really helps develop a connection to this land.
The trails tend to get crowded on the weekends, especially during spring and summer so you might want to come early if you seek solitude. There is a gun range a few miles away which you can here mid-day and you never really get away from the road-noise of the expressway several miles away, so a deep nature experience this is not. For us, it quickly seems to recede to background noise as we chat about the trees, wildflowers and birds that surround us.
Fans of the water might like to fish from the shore or rent a canoe or rowboat to fish for pan-fish in Kent Lake. Be sure to be properly licensed! If fishing isn't your sport then you might enjoy renting a kayak or canoe and just exploring the lake. Again, get there early as there can sometimes be almost a 2 hour wait for a boat on busy weekends.
This park also features the Island Queen, a 25 passenger pontoon boat that gets you out on the water, but is more sedate than the canoes or kayaks. It is a pleasant one hour ride that gives a great tour of the lake.
Bikers, walkers, rollerbladers and runners will enjoy the 8 mile paved path that circles the lake. It also connects to the nearby Island Lake State Park to the south and to a paved trail system to the north, so ambitious bikers and runners can get far more than an 8 mile experience.
The daily park fee is currently $10 per car and some of the activities noted above, like the boat ride and the watercraft rentals require an extra fee, which seems to be reasonable to spend time at a well-maintained park creating many cherished memories.