NEW BUFFALO — Area parks (and increasingly community gardens) continue to serve as a refuge for many during Michigan’s long-running coronavirus lockdown.

Michael Walsh and “Captain Hook” paid a visit to the public beach in New Buffalo on Saturday, April 2.

Captain Hook is a parrot (a blue-and-gold macaw to be precise) and Walsh said he often takes him to the beach — usually in St. Joseph.

“I’ll ride my bicycle with him … fly him alongside the bike.”

Walsh said they came to New Buffalo to se what the beach looked like after hearing about the severe flooding that hit a few days earlier (see article and photos on page A2).

Although the high waters had receded by the weekend and the sun was shining, signs of the big lake’s former fury were hard to miss.

Dustin Harvey was busy cleaning up the aftermath of the flood out of the nearby New Buffalo Beach Club concession building (park staff also had their hands full as the beach and riverfront were covered with a tangle of seaweed and assorted debris).

“There was lots of sand and lots of water inside, so we’ve moved it all out,” Harvey said.

The effort had a sense of urgency since the New Buffalo Beach Club is slated to open for the 2020 season (carry-out at the window only with a limited menu) on Saturday, May 9.

“There needs to be some sense of normalcy for everyone … I want the beach to be open and people to be able to enjoy,” Harvey said.

WARREN DUNES STATE PARK

Chris Dewey of Bridgman spent much of the sunny afternoon of April 26 riding the wind on a longboard skateboard in a parking lot at Warren Dunes State Park.

Dewey, who made the hand-held sail he used for “sail-skating” out of PVC pipe and polyester, said he’s been sail-skating and kiteboarding (being pulled on the board by a five-meter kite) for about 10 years.

And lately he’s been spending a lot of time at the State Park, even making the trip there and back on the board April 26.

THREE OAKS COMMUNITY GARDEN

Paul Antrim (who described himself as “one of the guys who works the garden”) wasn’t just gardening on Saturday, May 2.

Antrim also spent some time getting a refuse can ready for the Three Oaks Community Garden’s imminent growing season. He explained that there had only been a recycling bin onsite before, and it ended being filled up with a lot more garbage than recyclables.

Antrim has four plots in the garden, with his garlic (planted in the fall) along with potatoes and onions  already growing since they are more resistant to frost.

He said plants that prefer warmer weather (such as tomatoes, sweet peppers and beets) won’t go in until May 22.

“That was my father’s date. He was a farmer and he never wanted anything up before then. And that’s what his father did.”

Antrim said a delivery of compost just arrived (one of the perks of being in a community garden).

But those wishing to get in on those perks may have to wait.

“All of our beds are rented out,” Antrim noted.

Theresa Koeller has a bed of strawberries planted three years ago that are doing well this spring.

On May 2 she was getting another bed ready for zucchini and tomatoes.

Koeller said she enjoys working in the community garden and “getting a tan.”

DISC GOLF AT LAKE TOWNSHIP PARK

Sean Binder and Mark Soper spent the morning of April 23 playing disc golf at Lake Township Park.

“We’re out here a few times a week” (even before the pandemic), noted BInder.

He said they see a lot of people on the course at Lake Township Park, although they were alone Thursday morning (disc golfers may not all be early risers).

THE PLANTING FIELD

Doing some weeding at the Planting Field garden, located at the Chikaming Park and Preserve, on April 23 was Amy Rauhut.

She has two plots filled with native plants featuring overlapping bloom times to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies for the entire garden. The plants include wild native geraniums, golden alexanders, cone flowers, rattlesnake master, butterfly weed, false blue indigo (a hummingbird favorite), cardinal flowers, iron weed, blazing star, and three kinds of asters.

“There’s stuff for the butterflies, there’s stuff for the bees, and some of them cross over,” Rauhut said, adding some native bees use grasses such as big bluestem for shelter and nesting material, and native plants also can attract beneficial predator insects.

Rauhut said she recently started establishing a second pollinator habitat in the donation portion of the community garden dedicated to growing food crops for entities such as food pantries and shelters.

The lack of plant availability at nurseries and garden centers (which was lifted the next day) wasn’t a major problem for Rauhut since the pollinator garden plants tend to be perennials that come back every spring.

She said the stay at home order does seem to have kept some gardeners away from the plots — at least so far.

“Some people have started to work on things. There’s a lot of clean-up to do in the spring and prepping the soil.”

Rauhut said the Planting Field gets organic cow manure donated from the Shuler Dairy Farm to use as fertilizer.

She also said the Planting Field is an organic garden and getting organic seeds has been more difficult than usual this year. But Rauhut cautioned that putting in most plants before Mother’s Day (or even Memorial Day for the more delicate varieties) risks damage from frost.

WEKO BEACH

Lake Side Fit owner Lacey Lucas said she held a Social Distancing Fitness Class at Weko Beach in Bridgman on the evening of Sunday, May 3.

“I got the proper OK from Bridgman and Lake Township police departments and the City of Bridgman before doing this,” she said. “To my surprise the turnout was phenomenal with 27 people joining for class — all of course 6 feet away from each other.”

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