Winter Season Activities Attracting park visitors in Ingham County
Visiting a park during the winter season may seem untraditional to some, but in a state where the winter season makes up a majority of their weather, parks must be able to react quickly when it comes to keeping park visitor statistics up. Luckily, Ingham County Parks don’t not find the winter season to be an obstacle and continues to operate 364 days a year without missing a beat. Owning over 1,200 acres of parkland, some of Ingham County Parks’ include Burchfield Park, Lake Lansing Parks North and South, and Hawk Island Park. Hawk Island remains the newest park owned by Ingham County Parks and notably, since opening in 2002, the park has reached more than five million visitors. Annually, the parks receive more than 1.25 million visitors.
Attracting Consumers to the Park During Winter While Creating Jobs
Ingham County Parks provides a great mixture of winter activities targeted towards families and also single park visitors, in order to remain marketable throughout the winter season. Some of these activities include a sledding hill, cross-country ski rentals and trails at the Burchfield Park in Holt; and Hawk Island Park has a snow-tubing hill with a lift system for park visitors to use. Since the sledding hill has been very popular for park visitors, this winter the park plans to add a “magic carpet” to the hill in order to replace the lift system, and as a result, provide additional safety measures, and transport people to the top of the hill more quickly. In addition to the sledding hill, Hawk Island’s one and a half mile loop trail around the lake is cleared of snow and ice for winter walkers and runners.
“We truly have visitors of every age and from various communities in Ingham County. Certain activities may appeal to a younger group of people or young families such as the snow hill, but I would not rule anyone out,” said Karen Fraser, financial and marketing coordinator at Ingham County Parks. “Since our parks are in three different areas of Ingham County, (Haslett, Lansing and Holt) we are fortunate to be able to serve a large geographic area.”
Ingham County reaches their audiences through a variety of marketing and advertising avenues. One tactic includes sending out flyers and newsletters to schools. Besides targeting families through schools, Ingham County Parks uses social media, electronic mailings and radio advertising to attract individuals to the park.
“In addition to our many forms of advertising, rack cards for both Burchfield and Hawk Island are distributed to local libraries and other agencies,” stated Fraser. “Last winter, rack cards for Hawk Island were even in some of the State of Michigan’s rest areas.”
Each year, Ingham County Parks hires 100 seasonal workers. Some employees work in the summer months while other employees work in the winter season. Most of the parks’ seasonal workers are high school or college-aged students completing internships. Besides students, there are also a few retirees who make up the seasonal staff. In addition, each park has full-time park professionals who maintain and operate the parks. Ingham County Parks’ main office is located in Mason and holds 12 full-time professional staff.
According to Fraser, in Michigan, parks across the state generate over $1.8 billion of revenue and account for over 15,000 jobs.
Keeping up winter revenues
Many may wonder if a park can be successful in today’s economy, especially in a state that experiences long term cold and snowy weather during the winter season. According to Fraser, she finds winter at the park can offer an opportunity for different kinds of activities, which is very attractive to many park visitors.
“We are fortunate to live in a part of the country that has four seasons and some people love winter just as much as summer,” said Fraser. “The parks do have fewer visitors in winter months, but we expect that and plan for it, in regard to budgeting.”
Fraser noted that The Ingham County Parks generate a larger share of earned revenues from May through September, and beyond earnings, the parks are funded through an appropriation from the County. When it comes to winter revenue at Ingham County Parks, the amount varies a great deal due to factors such as weather and the amount of snow that is on the ground or can be made.
“Winter activities in Michigan account for a very positive revenue flow depending upon what a certain community has to offer in terms of outdoor winter fun,” said Fraser. “At Ingham County Parks the winter season runs December through March and collective revenue is near $100,000.”
In addition to collecting revenues from park visitors, the main office is a U.S. Passport Acceptance Agency. During the winter months, employees collect revenues from processing U.S. passport applications.
Even though the park does experience fewer visitors in the winter months, revenues show consumers still enjoy visiting. One may ask if the reason behind the successful amount of winter park visitors is due to the love for winter activities or just because of state pride.
“For me, I love going to the parks in the winter because it is simply beautiful, and I think that attracts park visitors too,” said Fraser. “I do admit to bundling up and I do like a cup of hot cocoa when I come inside.”
To learn more about Ingham County Parks, please visit pk.ingham.org.