A true friend of the Ludington State Park

June 2, 2014
Bob Sasin at the Ludington State Park beach house.

Bob Sasin at the Ludington State Park beach house.

By Kate Krieger. MCP Correspondent.

HAMLIN TWP. – Volunteers do a lot for places and usually go very unnoticed. Many people may think that since the Ludington State Park is such a rustic beauty it doesn’t need much in the way of upkeep, but that is not the case at all. Between the many employees the park staffs, there is still endless work that needs to be completed at the park each year. This is all very familiar to Ludington resident Bob Sasin.

A former Detroit area native and a 32 year employee at Ford Motor Company, Sasin spent many years vacationing at the Ludington State Park to escape his typical busy lifestyle. He relocated to Ludington with his wife, Susan, five years ago after retiring from Ford.

“It all started with going camping,” he said. “I would ask the kids where we were going and they said Ludington.”

Sasin and his wife decided that they would move to Ludington after they retired because they had enjoyed it so much there all the years they were camping at the park.

With 35 years of camping at the park already under his belt, Sasin has certainly made a lot of friends due to his time spent in Ludington.

“We have the third generation of people coming back to camp now at the state park,” he said. “We have made this community of friends. People from Auburn Hills, Sault St. Marie, Texas, Fort Wayne, Quincy and the Chicago area all come up to the park. We try to get back the last week of June or the first week of July each year.”

Sasin said that the group stays in Beechwood Campground every year and the entire park holds a lot of memories for his family. His two children were both engaged at the park and they bring their families back to camp now as well. With all the memories and love for the park, Sasin really wanted to give back and offer some kind of volunteer service and four years ago he started looking for ways to help.

“I started going to the manager’s meetings at the park,” he said. “I spoke up about doing something at the park and I was then asked if I wanted to take it on, so I did.”

Sasin’s first project he completed with his wife was to paint the over 300 blue stairs that encompass the Skyline Trail, Lost Lake Trail and the Ridge Trail, which runs atop of the Beechwood Campground. Since the initial painting of those stairs, Sasin has now worked with the Lowe’s Hero Program and Consumers Energy to coordinate their help with the continuation of that project each year.

Sasin has also been a key member of the Friends of the Ludington State Park, which is a group of volunteers who assist in working around the park and help raise money for local park projects and events that need to be completed.

Sasin said that there has been a reactivation of the group in the last few years and that since the loss of the park’s nature center, the funds for a while were small because there was no real place for funding to come in like the nature center had provided in the past with its sales of merchandise.

The group is now in charge of a yearly bottle return, where campers and park visitors can drop off bottles to different locations throughout the park and then the bottles are cashed in in coordination with local retailers and distributors and the Friends of the Ludington State Park receive the money back to fund park expenses.

Last year, Sasin said that the bottle returned paid for the summer entertainment, which was held at the amphitheater, located on the south side of the park, near the old Nature Center site.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Bob as a member of the Friends of Ludington State Park,” Ludington State Park Manager, Jim Gallie said. “I’ve never worked with a person who has as much enthusiasm for volunteering as Bob and his ability to organize volunteers so effectively is impressive. He really cares about this community and wants to do what he can to better it. The park has seen some very nice improvements put into place because of the volunteer projects initiated by Bob and the Friends group volunteers.”

The Friends of the Ludington State Park have about 27 volunteers, not including spouses who come along a lot of the time to help. Last year, the group painted all of the campsite numbers and white markers and they also assisted park manager, Jim Gallie in the lantern snow shoe walk by lighting lanterns and assisting with hot cocoa.

“It has proven to be very successful,” Sasin said.

Recently, the group was also involved in assisting with the creation of the sidewalk, which runs from the front of the Lake Michigan beach house down to the water’s edge, making the shoreline more accessible for most everyone.

Some other previous projects that the group has completed are the purchasing of the sand accessible wheelchairs, installing newer beaches around the park, cleanup along M-116, relocating native plants near the beach house and monitoring all but two trials throughout the park for their need of upkeep and maintenance, which they continue to do monthly at the park.

“The park really holds a soft spot in my heart,” Sasin said. “The availability and the uniqueness of it. I really value the friendships I have developed with the volunteers.”

Sasin said that they are always looking for new volunteers and donations to assist with all the different park projects and entertainment each year. People interested in becoming a volunteer can contact Jim Gallie at the Ludington State Park or they can stop in at the park office. There is a $20 per family cost each year to join, but those funds go directly back into funding the park projects. Sasin said that he likes to start most projects around 9 a.m. and they last for about four hours at a time. Donations can be mailed to Friends of the Ludington State Park, PO Box 123, Ludington, MI, 49431.

“I really enjoy volunteering,” Sasin said. “The hardest part is saying no and then having the guilt trip afterwards.”

The volunteers continue to work at the park and have hopes that they can accomplish more and more projects for everyone to enjoy. They have hopes to install a handicap accessible kayak and canoe launch on Hamlin Lake, along with possibly covering the amphitheater.

“It’s amazing we can do so much,” Sassin said. “We have accomplished a lot of things, but a lot of times you don’t really see it. Those small things turn into bigger things though.”

Starting from his yearly camping trips to Ludington, Sasin has made a mark on the Ludington State Park and plans on continuing to watch the park change and grow with the assistance of the staff there and the volunteers who come out to help.

“We really get a lot of positive feedback from the staff,” he said. “I think they are pretty grateful.”

Gallie and the staff at the park definitely appreciate all that Sasin and the other volunteers have done throughout the years around the park.

“Bob is a pleasure to work with and a joy to be around,” Gallie said. “He’s funny, full of ideas and caring. I always enjoy spending time with him.”

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