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Time to play! New playground opens at Pavilion Shore Park in Novi


Less than a month after the Novi City Council approved a new playground at Pavilion Shore Park, the structure is up and ready for fun, just in time for the Christmas break for area children.

Jeff Muck, the city's director of parks, recreation and cultural service, said it's the fastest turnaround he's seen on such a project during his time with the city.

Read more. 

Fitness club Equinox opens first Michigan location in Bloomfield Hills


Equinox, which operates nearly 100 full-service fitness clubs across the U.S. as well as in London and Canada, opened its first Michigan location in Bloomfield Hills.

“Equinox was founded on the premise that fitness can power and empower a community of high-performance individuals, and Bloomfield Hills certainly embodies that ethos,” says Harvey Spevak, executive chairman and managing partner of Equinox. “We look forward to helping maximize lives and building community across this dynamic, sophisticated neighborhood by delivering performance-driven experiences, unparalleled programming and personalized service.”

Read more

Free platform tennis clinic offered at Waterford Oaks County Park

Just because the weather has turned colder doesn’t mean the tennis racquets have to go into storage. Platform tennis is a great alternative to traditional racquet sports and one that can be played all winter long.

Learn more about platform tennis during a free clinic from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at Waterford Oaks County Park, 1702 Scott Lake Road in Waterford. Instruction will be provided by the Waterford Paddle Club.

This clinic is an opportunity to “test drive” platform tennis and learn about play from local residents who are platform tennis enthusiasts.

“Platform tennis is a great way to stay physically active during the colder winter months. It’s also a great way to meet new people and socialize,” Jeremy Brown, assistant park supervisor, Waterford Oaks County Park, said.

Platform tennis is a fantastic family sport that is easy to learn. With lighted courts that include heated platform surfaces designed to remove ice and snow, it is the only racquet sport that players can enjoy outdoors in winter weather conditions because after the snow is removed, the courts’ special floor heating units provide a dry playing surface.

The game is played on an elevated aluminum deck that is one-quarter the size of a regulation tennis court. Rules vary slightly from traditional tennis as a 12-foot high, taut 16-gauge “chicken wire” fence allows play off the walls, similar to racquetball or squash.

Extra equipment will be available during the clinic for first-time players or those who do not have their own paddles or paddle balls. No pre-registration is necessary, but participants should dress for the weather and wear tennis shoes. No previous experience is needed and all ages are welcome.

Information on platform tennis memberships will also be available during the clinic. An individual or family membership, which covers the cost of the lights, heaters and access to the warming building, is required to play. There is no additional charge for court time.

Platform tennis season is October-April and is split into two halves: October to mid-January and mid-January to April. Half-season trial memberships are also available for those new to the sport.

For more information, call Jay Reynolds at 248-645-9671, Betsy Hodges at 248-892-0580 or Oakland County Parks and Recreation at 248-858-0916.

Visit OaklandCountyParks.com for more information. Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Kroger Co. and The Kroger Co. Foundation supports Forgotten Harvest with $139,000 grant

Nonprofit food rescue organization Forgotten Harvest recently received a $139,000 grant from The Kroger Co. Foundation at the request of The Kroger Co. of Michigan. Michigan Kroger has proudly partnered with Forgotten Harvest since 2004.

The Kroger Co. Foundation’s grant is part of Zero Hunger | Zero Waste, Kroger’s plan to end hunger in local communities and eliminate waste across the company by 2025.

During 2017, Forgotten Harvest partnered with Michigan Kroger to collect over 4.15 million pounds of surplus nutritious food donated from 93 southeast Michigan Kroger stores and distribution facilities. According to USDA calculations, Kroger’s food donations gift will help provide enough food for 3.4 million meals to help those in need. Current U.S. Census data indicates that one in six people (589,000) and one in four children in metro Detroit face hunger and food insecurity.

Since 2010, Forgotten Harvest’s capacity has grown from rescuing 19.3 million pounds of food each year to 45.8 million pounds in 2017, a 135 percent increase.

“Forgotten Harvest stands proudly with corporate partners like The Kroger Co. of Michigan and its visionary Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative to end hunger and food insecurity while delivering healthy, nutritious food,” said Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest. “Forgotten Harvest would not be able to help so many in need within our community without Kroger’s partnership and support.”

“The Kroger Co. of Michigan is pleased to endorse this generous grant to help end hunger and food waste in southeast Michigan,” said Rachel Hurst, corporate affairs manager for Michigan Kroger. “Everyone benefits from our ongoing ability to boost the nutrition level for hungry neighbors while diverting food from area landfills.”

About Forgotten Harvest

Oak Park, Michigan-based Forgotten Harvest was formed in 1990 to fight two problems: hunger and waste. Forgotten Harvest “rescued” over 45.8 million pounds of food last year by collecting surplus prepared and perishable food from over 800 locations, including grocery stores, fruit and vegetable markets, restaurants, caterers, dairies, farmers, wholesale food distributors and other Health Department-approved sources. This donated food, which would otherwise go to waste, is delivered free-of-charge to over 250 emergency food providers in the metro Detroit area.

Learn more about Forgotten Harvest and how to help drive hunger from our community at www.forgottenharvest.org.

About The Kroger Co. of Michigan
Incorporated in Michigan in 1909 and headquartered in Novi, The Kroger Co. of Michigan includes 19,000 associates, 125 Kroger stores, 75 fuel centers, 104 pharmacies and the Michigan Dairy. Purpose: to FEED the Human Spirit, by serving the region through food, inspiration and uplift, and creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025.

Kroger, one of the world's largest retailers, employs more than 375,000 associates who serve customers in 2,640 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, Harris Teeter, Jay C, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's. The company also operates 786 convenience stores, 320 fine jewelry stores, 1,240 supermarket fuel centers and 38 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 200 million meals a year through more than 80 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber's Million Dollar Club.

Have a ball during Youth Abilities Saturday Sports Special program

As the weather gets cooler, keep youth active by registering them for the Youth Abilities Saturday Sports Special program from October through November.

The program, designed for youth with disabilities ages 6-18, features activities such as parachute games, floor hockey, kickball, scooters and basketball. It is held in conjunction with Oakland County Parks and Recreation and the Boys & Girls Club.

Saturday Sports Special events are scheduled from 9:30-11 a.m. on Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27 and Nov. 3 and 17 at the Boys & Girls Club, 1545 East Lincoln Road in Royal Oak.

“Children get together with their friends, play games and have a ball,” Recreation Therapist Sandy Dorey said. “I suggest that those interested register early. This is a popular program and registration is limited to 20 participants. Individuals must pre-register for each week they plan to attend.”

For more information, contact Oakland County Parks and Recreation at 248-424-7081 or Adaptive@oakgov.com.

Visit OaklandCountyParks.com for more information. Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

CHN and OCHN develop new housing locator link

Community Housing Network (CHN) and Oakland Community Health Network (OCHN) have collaborated to create a new, online Oakland Housing Link (OHL) tool. Oakland County residents who receive public mental health services and live within a specialized residential setting will have improved choices in locations and homes with OHL.
“We’re thankful for CHN’s expertise in developing this valuable online tool to help the people we serve make informed decisions about where and with whom they want to live,” explains OCHN Executive Director and CEO Annette Downey. “It furthers our mission to empower people and strengthen communities, while promoting inclusion and self-determination for all.”  
OHL, which is guided by person-centered planning, showcases available housing options within OCHN’s provider network. These options are available for individuals already receiving specialized residential services, as well as for future service participants. Assistance with all housing searches is being led by network provider case managers and support coordinators. 
“We’re very excited about offering complete, accurate and timely housing information for people looking for a home that suits their needs and desires,” said CHN’s President Marc Craig. “This project aligns well with our goal as an agency to help people find a home in an area of their choosing.”
Examples of community amenities shared through OHL include information on nearby restaurants, parks, transportation, shopping centers, as well as home photos. OHL features were established with the assistance of focus groups who met to discuss and share thoughts about the wants and needs of individuals for whom the tool was being built.
The projected launch date for the Oakland Housing Link to be available on both CHN’s and OCHN’s websites is October 1, 2018, however ongoing design enhancement will continue as needed.  

Pontiac's Libby the Lizard helps children speak out against abuse and neglect

Her abusive childhood was a secret Toni McMorris kept for more than 30 years. As an adult, she sought professional help to heal and to reckon with the impact the experience had on her life. She adopted a personal mission to prevent children from experiencing any type of abuse and neglect.

McMorris got creative. Empowered by a journaling habit that was so critical to her recovery, she wrote a children's book and conjured a reptilian ambassador in an idea that was beginning to take shape.

Today, Libby the Lizard is an educational program based on a children's book that explores the concept of secrets, good and bad.

"Having someone to talk to that you trust is very important in terms of awareness, prevention, and intervention of child abuse," says McMorris, who explains the concept behind her book "Good Secrets and Bad Secrets."

"We teach children to always tell, to report, when bad things happen. In the book, we introduce a resource called Libby's Trust List."

McMorris, who has a master's degree in health administration, founded the nonprofit Good Secrets and Bad Secrets in 2015, together with Larry Mathews, an Army veteran officer, instructor at Oakland Community College, and healthcare researcher for Wayne State University.

Mathews himself suffered a dysfunctional childhood yet sought out positive experiences by participating in the swimming and diving team and devoting himself to schoolwork.

"Larry's experience tells us he was able to avoid normalizing the behavior after the seventh grade," says McMorris. "One of the goals we have is we don't ever want children to normalize abusive behavior. We want to help them distinguish appropriate from inappropriate."

The nonprofit's sister organization, Libby International, serves as a for-profit retail arm for book sales and eventual branded material, including Libby backpacks, t-shirts, and shoes. A $10,000 grant from Flagstar Pontiac Big Idea program helped purchase a life-sized Libby costume and publish and print books to give to children.

"We have had Libby attend events in Pontiac, and when the kids get to know Libby through the book and then see her, they just swarm her," says McMorris. "It's a beautiful experience."

Libby is the featured star of an entire curriculum for social studies and reading that meets Michigan educational standards, says Mathews. Intended as the first in a series of books and programs, "Good Secrets and Bad Secrets" sets the foundation for other child safety topics such as internet safety, sports, drugs, weapons, and suicide.

"Parents and teachers can use Libby to help kids feel safe," says Mathews. "Libby can be a touchpoint for when there is a school shooting, for example."

The team has presented the program to students at Inkster Preparatory Academy, and during afterschool programming at Schulze Academy in Detroit. With their business based in downtown Pontiac, the team is working to provide similar instruction in the Pontiac School District.

"The issue is funding," says Mathews. "We are working to identify corporate and school foundation funding for our programs."

Through Libby, McMorris and Mathews are confident they will provide information, support, and resources to kids so they don't have to suffer abuse and neglect.

"Protecting our children requires a disciplinary approach, with multiple levels and multiple resources at every developmental age, says McMorris."

Health Division: The time is now for back-to-school vaccinations

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and the Oakland County Health Division strongly encourage school-aged children to get the necessary vaccinations as the school year begins. Vaccination is an important step to ensure long-term health and helps protect the health of classmates, friends, relatives, and others in the community.

“Vaccinations defend against many serious diseases and help keep students healthy and in school,” Patterson said. “I strongly recommend everyone to make sure their child is up to date on all vaccinations to protect them and other children at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

In 2017, only 56.2% of Michigan toddlers and 38% of Michigan teens aged 13 to 17 years are up-to-date on all their recommended vaccinations, according to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR).

Follow the recommendations below to help protect school-age children from serious diseases:
  • Check your child’s immunization records to determine what vaccines your child needs and catch up on any missed vaccines before the school year begins. Contact your child’s healthcare provider, school, or Oakland County Health Division for more information.
  •  Follow the CDC’s Recommended Immunization Schedule, and work with your healthcare provider to determine what vaccines your child needs.
  •  Get an annual flu shot: Annual flu vaccines are recommended for children 6 months and older. Each year, millions of children get sick from seasonal flu. Thousands are hospitalized and some children die from flu. Children of any age with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes, and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of serious flu complications.
  •  Get the recommended vaccines for preteens in addition to a yearly flu vaccine:
    •  HPV vaccine protects against HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life.
    •  Tdap is a booster shot to help protect preteens from whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.
    •  Meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against meningitis, and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal.
  • Protect your child from the current hepatitis A outbreak. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. Symptoms may include sudden onset of abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, tiredness, loss of appetite and/or headache followed by yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Vaccination is recommended for everyone and is the best protection against hepatitis A.
"We continue to see vaccine-preventable illnesses in children who are unvaccinated, such as whooping cough and measles, re-emerging in Michigan,” said Dr. Russell Faust, medical director for the Health Division. “This is a strong reminder that vaccines work, and you can protect your children by making sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations.''

Vaccines are available at the Oakland County Health Division. Pre-payment and registration are not available at these walk-in clinics. Health Division offices are located at the following addresses:
  • North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34 East, Pontiac
  • South Oakland Health Center, 27725 Greenfield Road, Southfield
If you have insurance, check with your healthcare/insurance provider for possible benefit coverage. The Health Division participates in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program which offers vaccines at no cost for eligible children up to 18-years-old. No one will be denied access to services due to inability to pay. A discounted/sliding fee schedule is available. Payment options include cash and credit card. Credit card fees apply. Bring all insurance and identification cards to the clinic.

For more information about immunizations, visit www.oakgov.com/health or call Oakland County Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday. Follow @PublicHealthOC on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for up-to-date public health information.

Oakland County Parks and Recreation recognized with national award

Oakland County Parks and Recreation’s (OCPR) Recreation Assistance Partnership Program (RAPP) has been awarded the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials’ (NACPRO) 2018 Park and Recreation Program Award.

The national award was presented July 15 at NACPRO’s Summer Meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The Parks and Recreation Award is given to recognize a unique or exceptional program, activity or event, which provides an outstanding example for others to follow. Nominations are judged on uniqueness, effectiveness in achieving program goals and public response.

Since its inception in 1982, RAPP has provided recreation yearly to more than 1 million Oakland County residents who might not otherwise have had access to recreation.

“The RAPP program is important to our local communities and to Oakland County Parks and Recreation,” Brandy Boyd, Chief of Recreation Programs and Services, said. “With this program we have supplemented day camp programs, special events, senior programs and so much more. We have also partnered with local municipalities and non-profit organizations to create new and lasting special events. We are so fortunate that the OCP Commission not only supports this program but also keeps encouraging staff to provide more recreation experiences to its residents.”

Through the RAPP program, grants are awarded in the form of OCPR mobile recreation program activities which include outreach programs, nature education and bus transportation to cities, villages and townships; community parks and recreation departments; schools; downtown development authorities; non-profit organizations; and underserved populations.

A RAPP grant provides up to two outreach programs such as Get Outdoors! Cache, Get Outdoors! Fish adventures and inflatables, one nature education plus one bus trip.  One example was a trip to a Detroit Tigers baseball game for a group of children from Pontiac. The RAPP grant provided bus transportation for the 30-mile trip to the stadium in downtown Detroit, a city most had never been to and to an event they might not have had an opportunity to experience.

In 2017 a nature component was added to the grant programs. The requests for nature programs doubled from 20 to 40 this year.

The RAPP program ensures that recreational needs of the diverse citizen population throughout Oakland County are met.

For information on other events, visit OaklandCountyParks.com. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Learn about trails and parks during Trail Blazer Walking Series

Put on your walking shoes and learn about Oakland County Parks by hiking through different parks on summer evenings as part of the Trail Blazer Walking Series.

Beginning July 10, the program will feature one-mile hikes led by Oakland County Parks and Recreation staff who will discuss unique park facts throughout the walk. Held each Tuesday for six weeks beginning at 7 p.m., the walk schedule includes:

  • July 10  Addison Oaks   
    1480 West Romeo Road, Leonard
    Learn about invasive species and other ecological features in the area
  • July 17  Waterford Oaks  
    1702 Scott Lake Road, Waterford
    Learn about bluebirds and other animals in the area
  • July 24  Catalpa Oaks
    27725 Greenfield Road, Southfield
    Discover historical tidbits about the Catalpa Oaks community
  • July 31  Lyon Oaks 
    52251 Pontiac Trail, Wixom
    Learn about invasive species and other ecological features in the area
  • Aug. 7  Independence Oaks 
    9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston
    Join a naturalist on a hike around Crooked Lake
  • Aug. 14  Red Oaks Nature Center
    30300 Hales St., Madison Heights                       
    Explore the Sensory Trail

Programs are free. Park entry fee is required at Addison Oaks, Lyon Oaks, Independence Oaks and Red Oaks County Parks. Walkers are urged to bring bug spray and a refillable water bottle. Free pedometers will be given while supplies last. For details, contact Sandy Dorey at 248-424-7077.

For information on other events, visit OaklandCountyParks.com. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Family Grand Adventures planned in Oakland County Parks

Oakland County Parks and Recreation has planned “Grand Adventures” for grandparents, parents and children this summer.

“Grand Adventures is a great intergenerational program for families to get outside and explore their favorite Oakland County Parks and discover new ones,” Brandy Boyd, Chief of Recreation Programs and Services, said.The program is designed for quality family time exploring parks, finding new adventures and spending the summer making amazing memories.”

The Grand Adventures guide book will be available at Oakland County Parks and area senior centers.  The booklet includes information on activities and events throughout the parks system. It enables users to track their “grand” times, checking off parks as they visit and sharing memories in a special section. Various parks and events will provide stickers and Selfie Stations as well as a stamp in the booklet to commemorate their times together.

Grand Adventures participants are encouraged to visit as many Oakland County Parks as possible throughout summer. The program will culminate in a special play day on Grandparents Day, Sunday, Sept. 9, from 1-4 p.m. at Waterford Oaks County Park. Checked-off activities booklet holders will receive a special coin for a prize.

For information on other events, visit OaklandCountyParks.com. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Snap into summer with the annual Pics of the Parks Photo Contest

Oakland County Parks and Recreation invites park visitors to capture and share their park experiences in the annual Pics of the Parks Photo Contest.

Submitted photos must fall into a PARK’D category: Parks, Artistic, Recreation, Kids, Dogs. All photos must be taken within the 13 Oakland County Parks with a limit of two entries per category. Entries must be submitted via email per the official rules.  An entry form is required. The entry form and official rules can be found on OaklandCountyParks.com/Get Involved. Photos can be taken in any season but can only be submitted between May 28 and Sept. 3

Photos will be judged by members of the Oakland Camera Club with the winners announced by Oct. 13. A Best of Show will be awarded, along with first, second, third and honorable mention winners in each PARKS category. The Best of Show photo will appear on the cover of the 2018 Oakland County Parks Annual Report

The top six entries (Best of Show and first place in each category) receive a mounted print of their entry. The print will be displayed at Wint Nature Center in Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston from mid-October through mid-December. All entries and winners will be displayed on OaklandCountyParks.SmugMug.com

“Pics of the Parks Photo Contest is a celebration of the faces and places that make up Oakland County Parks,” Executive Officer Dan Stencil said. “This contest gives us the opportunity to see our parks through the eyes of our visitors and provides guests a way to visually share their experiences. Last year, 46 photographers entered 146 images in the contest. The photos get better and better each year.”

Information about the 13 Oakland County Parks locations, special events and recreation opportunities are available at OaklandCountyParks.com. Normal park entry and admission fees to access the parks are required.

For information on other events, visit OaklandCountyParks.com. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Volunteers, winter event win state honors

Service to others is the theme three winners of the 2018 mParks (Michigan Recreation and Park Association) Community Service Awards have in common. Oakland County Parks and Recreation nominated the Fire & Ice Festival, The Daisy Project- MI and volunteer Steve Stolaruk for the awards that recognize events, programs, groups and individuals that provide recreation and service to others.

Fire & Ice Festival

The Oakland County-Executive Office, Rochester Downtown Development Authority, Rochester and Oakland County Parks and Recreation collaborate annually to host the Fire & Ice Festival, a winter celebration in downtown Rochester. In its 10th year, the three-day community affair was Friday, Jan. 19 – Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. From dog sled rides and ice skating, to zip lining and fireworks, Fire & Ice has it all.

Even with warmer than usual temperatures, the 2018 Fire & Ice Festival drew approximately 55,000 visitors. The tube sledding hill and cross-country ski area were replaced with a zip line and climbing tower. Event staples include the Big, Bright Light Show, live music and an ice sculpture carving competition.

The Daisy Project-MI

Adaptive recreation, which provides opportunities for individuals of all ages with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities, is a priority for OCPR. The system’s 13 parks offer a variety of adaptive equipment designed to make it easier for everyone to maximize enjoyment of the outdoors and have fun leisure experiences with friends and family. However, the sandy beach area at Groveland Oaks County Park often was a challenge for individuals with mobility issues to navigate. Funding from the Daisy Project – MI made it feasible to install a Mobi-Mat.

A Mobi-Mat is a non-slip portable roll-out pathway with a patented 3-D design surface that allows individuals of all abilities, including wheelchair users, to access the water.

The Daisy Project-MI is a non-profit organization whose mission is to obtain medical equipment and other recreation items for special needs families that will help to enhance their quality of life.

Steve Stolaruk

Since the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, Michigan Department of Nature Resources and Groveland Township started talking about creating an off-road vehicle park, Steve Stolaruk had been the biggest supporter of the idea.

Stolaruk, of Rochester Hills, sold his sand and gravel mine in Holly to the MDNR to provide about half of the land necessary for the future off-road vehicle park. He was a special guest at the first of the two Dixie Gully Run test events and was inspired by what he saw. From 2014-2017, Steve had one or two of his employees working six days a week sculpting every inch of the 113-acre property in an effort to get the park developed as soon as possible. His volunteer work equaled thousands of dollars in free material and time. He built hills, dug ponds and mud pits, cut hill climbs, leveled prospective parking areas, and roughed-in more than five miles of winding ORV trails. He also brought in refrigerator-sized boulders and concrete slabs (and more than 150 mammoth tree trunks) to the site.

Until his death on Feb. 12, 2018 at the age of 91, his excitement never waned.

The Community Service Award winners were recognized April 18 in Lansing.

For information on other events, visit OaklandCountyParks.com. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Two transformative park projects take shape in Rochester Hills

Two parks are under development in Rochester Hills, one humble in size and one more grand in scope and scale.

A gravel pull-out near the intersection of Avon and Livernois roads is being transformed into a fully-developed park. Work on the Eagles Landing trailhead has begun, with picnic tables, trash cans, and a well-defined parking lot recently put in place. With access to the Clinton River, the shore functions as a kayak launch, as well.

Ken Elwert, director of Parks and Natural Resources for Rochester Hills, says that the improvements are just beginning and that a fully-developed park, along with proper kayak launch, are scheduled to be completed in the next three to five years.

Southwest of Eagles Landing is Innovation Hills, a 110-acre eco-park that is being developed in six phases. The $7 million project, a combination of public and private funding sources, will take several years to be completed, though some features could debut by the end of summer.

Both parks are currently accessible.

"I think with Rochester Hills in general, the citizens, politicians, and businesses, they’re all here for the livability of the city," Elwert says. "These parks are something that the residents and businesses wanted, and the government responded."

One intriguing aspect of the Innovation Hills project will be the development of a playground that is friendly to those with autism. While the playground should appeal to all, this one will avoid using bright colors and will incorporate calming "cocoon-like" spaces, both features designed with autistic children in mind.

Other amenities will include a 2,000-foot boardwalk, four miles of walkable trails, two new ponds, a community building, and much more. Elwert is hopeful that the first mile-long trail loop and boardwalk will open by late summer or early fall, and perhaps some water features by late fall.

Construction of the playground will begin in 2019.

"Innovation Hills will complement the other larger parks, not duplicate them," says Elwert. "It’s going to be a more Up North experience."

Innovation Hills is located at 2800 W. Hamlin Rd. in Rochester Hills.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Weekly run club encourages thirst for vitality in Pontiac

Daniela Walters makes an excellent point about beer and running: they go well together.


That’s why Exferimentation Brewing Company, Pontiac’s scientific-sounding brewery, is the perfect place to host a weekly grass-roots run club.


“If you figure each glass of beer is 120 to 150 calories, and each mile you run can burn about 100 calories, you don’t feel so guilty,” says Walters, a local patent attorney with the Dobrusin Law Firm who, together with Exferimentation, is coordinating the run club.


Open to every experience level from absolute beginner to seasoned marathoner, run club is an opportunity for people to gather, share training wisdom, and see the neighborhoods of Pontiac from a pound-the-ground perspective.


“This will be a comfortable, welcoming setting with different pace groups, advice, and motivational support. Community running is a big help to overcome the barriers in your own mind, and it’s a group of people to motivate and distract you so you can do the extra half mile or mile,” says Walters, who runs regularly, and has participated in a few competitive distance events.


Launching on May 8, run club will start each Tuesday evening at 5:30, and continue through the end of October. The club is a collaborative effort between Exferimentation and Main Street Pontiac, a downtown-promoting nonprofit that focuses on arts and culture, makerspaces, and health and wellness efforts in the city of Pontiac.


“With Healthy Pontiac, We Can! and McLaren Oakland here in Pontiac, this is the perfect ecosystem for health and wellness, and the run club is one of our first health initiatives here in Pontiac,” says Walters, president of Main Street Pontiac.


A downtown filled with runners makes the city appear vibrant and healthy, too, an important optic for revitalization. And all participants are welcome relax and refuel with friends at Exferimentation after every run.


“We do try to have a healthier angle at the brewery,” says Exferimentation general manager Seth Leininger, pointing out the antioxidant value of their hibiscus wheat beer’s pink-purple hue.


Leininger will be the one who stays behind to mind the brewery and serve customers their favorite craft beers and ciders, but he says run club is a perfect fit for pub co-owners and fitness enthusiasts Scott Boughton, Eric Benton, and Andy Stamper. They originally started a run club when they opened the Pontiac brewery in 2016, and fit in a weekly run, in between growing their brewing business and working their full-time jobs in the automotive industry.


“[The club] didn’t really pick up again last spring. Everyone was too busy, or there was too much going on. Now Healthy Pontiac has helped us gain some momentum by researching what night of the week and what time would be best,” Leininger says.


While he wants runners to come back to Exferimentation, to quench their thirst after running, Leininger hopes the club starts strong and grows quickly.


“I know that about 20 people responded to the interest survey, and I would love to see 20, but an average of about a dozen people running each week would be a successful group, too.”


Join the run club by showing up at Exferimentation, 7 N. Saginaw, Pontiac. 5:30 p.m. on May 8, and every Tuesday through October.

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