Trading spaces: Urbanized Detroit to forested Manistique, Michigan

Lisa Perez
Urban Connections Detroit
October 20th, 2014 at 7:45PM

A group of young people from Detroit walk a somewhat unfamiliar path along the shoreline of Clear Lake on the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan. Detroit youth joined the U.S. Forest Service and traded their city lights and busy streets for an action-packed three days on the Hiawatha National Forest filled with views of trees, wildlife and dirt roads.

For most, this was their first time experiencing life outside the metropolitan area and entering the forest near Manistique, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The youth were filled with excitement and nerves as they prepared for their day that would be spent learning about different aspects of the Forest Service and information about the forest itself.

The young people began their morning learning how and why to use a compass, along with how to test clarity and depth of water in Clear Lake. They then received hands-on learning experience about what it is like to be a seasonal forest fighter. They were able to ask questions and tried on gear as they learned what types of opportunities are available and what types of work the forest firefighters do.

“I liked learning about the forest firefighters because it sounds cool that they get to go out and put out fires everywhere in the forest,” said eight-year-old Courtney.

Young urban youth looking and touching live fish.

In the afternoon, youth and their families enjoyed hiking through the forest around Clear Lake with a silviculturist who showed them the different types of forest trees and discussed the different duties that a forester has.

Also in the afternoon the kids spent time with some of the Forest Service’s seasonal fishery employees. The kids learned how to test the water temperature and what types of information they look for when they catch the fish. The staff also used a net and caught a few fish to give the kids some insight on what a day-in-the-life looks like for a member of the seasonal fishery staff.

“This was my first time at a forest and aside from all the mosquitoes my experience here was great,” 18-year-old D’Andre Carter said. “The area was certainly different from Detroit, but it was pretty and I would definitely consider coming back.”

Throughout the entire day the youth were all smiles and fascinated at this new adventure they were on. The kids ended their day by cooling off in Clear Lake and looked forward to the next two days they were able to spend learning and exploring the Hiawatha National Forest.

This trip was made possible by the agency’s Urban Connections Program that works with partners, such as Our Global Kids, engaging urban communities and underserved youth to help sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands.