DNR looking for youth volunteers

ESCANABA — This year’s fun-packed week of the Upper Peninsula State Fair is just around the corner, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is looking for some youth mentors for outdoor recreation activities taking place at the DNR Pocket Park.

The DNR needs community volunteers interested in helping kids learn to catch fish or shoot a pellet gun or bow and arrow during the Aug. 14-20 week of the Upper Peninsula State Fair.The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Pocket Park is located in Escanaba on the Upper Peninsula State Fairgrounds.

“This is a really cool opportunity to help guide youth in activities many in this region have come to consider as essential,” said Kristi Dahlstrom, one of the DNR volunteer organizers. “Hunters, anglers, teachers and many others could all be very helpful to young kids who may be trying these activities for the first time.”

The DNR Pocket Park is a 1-acre site within the fairgrounds, off U.S. 2, that features a bluegill-stocked catch-and-release pond, archery and pellet gun ranges, a fire tower, and a waterfall in a serene wooded landscaped setting.

The park caters especially to youngsters who are seeking an outdoor adventure or to learn an outdoor skill. The U.P. State Fair draws almost 75,000 visitors annually and many visit the Pocket Park to participate in the activities or to enjoy a relaxing shaded spot to sit.

“We also need volunteers to help greet visitors, staff the fire tower or assist Smokey Bear,” said Jo Ann Alexander, one of the DNR volunteer organizers. “This is a fun opportunity for those who love the outdoors to share their expertise or for someone who enjoys mentoring children to engage the next generation of hunters and anglers. No experience is needed as training will be provided.”

Businesses and organizations, clubs and groups also may wish to sponsor shifts during the fair by having their employees or members volunteer as a group.

“Volunteering together is a fun way to give something back to the local community, and do some important team-building at the same time,” Dahlstrom said.

Recognition of the group or business will be prominently displayed and announced.

“We have received a few wonderful monetary donations to replace old and broken equipment, as well as a commitment for volunteer help from a couple of dedicated organizations,” Alexander said. “We are extremely grateful for their assistance, but we are still in need of a lot more help to fill over 200 time slots.”

Volunteer shifts during fair week run:

-4:30-9 p.m. Monday (fair opening day-Aug. 14)
-11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 3-7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday
-11 a.m.-4 p.m. and 3:30-8:30 p.m. Friday
-11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday (fair final day-Aug. 20)

Community volunteers must be at least 16 years old (unless under special pre-approved circumstances) and pass a background check. A meal, T-shirt and a small gift will be provided.

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Kristi Dahlstrom at 906-226-1331 or dahlstromk@michigan.gov or Jo Ann Alexander at 906-789-8200 or alexanderj7@michigan.gov.

The Pocket Park is open Memorial Day to Labor Day by appointment to host family gatherings, picnics, youth organizations, school groups, sports associations, scouting campouts, and public events that include some introduction to fishing, shooting or outdoor recreation.

Those interested in booking an event at the Pocket Park are asked to call 906-789-0714 or 906-786-2351 to reserve a date.