New Discovery Center In Otsego County Aims at Teaching History of Pigeon River Country State Forest

It’s the largest contiguous tract of wild land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula but many in Northern Michigan don’t know much about it.

Volunteers at Pigeon River Country State Forest in Otsego County have been working for years to establish a center to teach the history behind the 100,000 acre forest.

9 and 10’s Aaron Parseghian talked with volunteers about why they’re working to teach people about the land’s importance.

“This has been a dream of ours for so long and to see it realized to see it continued to be supported by the community will be a really satisfying time,” said Pigeon River Country Association Member Sandy Franz.

A dream only weeks from realization. After three years, volunteers are now putting the finishing touches on the Discovery Center at Pigeon River.

“What we hope to do through the Discovery Center is to create a new generation of advocates of young people especially, who will protect the forest and value it for its wild characteristics,” explained Franz.

Using exhibits that highlight the vast array of wildlife as well as the unique recreation opportunities, the center will teach the importance of conservation.

“The forest you see all around you here is the result of consistent good conservation decisions over the past 100 years,” added Franz.

Erin Veltman has been taking troubled teens to Pigeon River for the past couple of years, she says it’s a great place for them.

“I’ve only ever heard positive things about it and the kids out here just love it. In my experience nature has a lot of positive effects on people’s mindsets. A lot of these kids have never been in the woods or they’ve seen maybe two trees in their entire life, so to get them out here and into nature they need to learn better ways to respect that,” explained Veltman.

Traveling through more than a century of history, visitors will learn of Ernest Hemingway and others who protected and helped grow the forest.

“It’s important for people who come from all over the Midwest and the state of Michigan to know that this land didn’t just happen, that it has taken intentional work from people from all walks of life,” said Franz.

The Discovery Center will open the public at the end of September.  

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