Alcoa-Howmet Provides Family Fun in Whitehall

July 15, 2012


At the southern end of the Hart-Montague Rail Trail is a section which passes near the Alcoa-Howmet casting plant. Recent improvements by Alcoa create some great opportunities for kids.

For one thing, the trail passes through the Alcoa-Howmet Woodland Garden. Many sections of the trail in Montague and Whitehall have been adopted and the plant material has been improved from the usual railside collection of alien plants. For this piece, Alcoa has teamed with the MSU Extension and Muskegon County Master Gardeners and added some perennial flowers. It’s billed as a beautification and educational project.

For the educational part, there are ten stations named the Born Learning Trail, with activities for kids. These would work well for classroom groups, or families/single children. For example, one station suggests that you try to walk like an animal, maybe a frog or a duck. It encourages the grownups to get involved too! Another station encourages people to touch bark and plants, talk about whether a leaf fell from a tree or grew up from the ground, etc. All the senses are engaged- listening, and looking- OK, maybe no tasting- but you get the idea. There’s even a hopscotch board painted on the asphalt.

Although most of the activities are aimed at small children, they are flexible enough for elementary schoolers to enjoy, too.

From the paved rail trail, there is a narrow foot trail which is the half-mile Alcoa Nature Trail loop. This is a prairie/savannah restoration project for which Alcoa was awarded the 2008 Conservationist of the Year award from the Muskegon Conservation District. The first section is through cool woods with several interpretive signs. Once you reach the former lawn of the casting plant, the entire area has been replanted with oak trees and prairie wildflowers, also interpreted. The wood chip surfaced trail loops through the tall flowers and returns to the woodland leg. Although one might wish to not be so close to an industry, it’s really a beautiful prairie project, and makes good use of the space.

By parking at the White Lake Library, your family could take a short bike ride and a hike on the

Nature Trail, and then take advantage of some of the educational activities.

The one drawback is that the Alcoa-Howmet park, which is immediately adjacent, is for employees and guests only, not the general public. So if you want to include a picnic and some relaxation you’ll need to find another local park. But there are several options, some with beaches for swimming in White Lake or Lake Michigan.




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