By Kathleen Lavey
(Editor’s note: this article originally appeared in The Lansing State Journal).
As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, it is encouraging Americans to “Find Your Park.” So how about the park service sites right here in Michigan for starters?
Most people know about Michigan’s top three national parks: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Isle Royale National Park. But there’s also a national park presence in four other places, including a War of 1812 battlefield, the Keweenaw Peninsula’s copper country, the North Country Scenic Trail and the MotorCities Heritage Area.
River Raisin National Battlefield Park
This 75-acre park, located at 1403 E. Elm Avenue in Monroe, dedicated in 2010, commemorates the January 1813 battles of Frenchtown during the War of 1812. The three battles were the largest conflict ever to occur within Michigan’s borders and were the deadliest for American forces during the war.
In the third conflict, sometimes referred to as the River Raisin Massacre, American militia forces were attacked in the early hours of January 23, 1813, by British, Canadian and allied American Indian troops. At least 300 Americans were left dead, and “Remember the Raisin!” became an American rallying cry in future battles.
The park includes battle sites, monuments and a visitor center and museum. It continues to develop programming.
Keweenaw National Historical Park
The park’s visitor center is at 98 Fifth Street in Calumet. The NPS owns selected parcels of land that were important in the region’s rich copper-mining history. It also works with independently owned sites along the Keweenaw Peninsula, including Quincy Mine and Hoist, the Delaware Mine and Adventure Mining Company.
Visitors can go underground in a historic copper mine, visit the ruins of area mines and check out local history in a number of museums. They include the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock and the Coppertown Mining Museum in Calumet.
North Country National Scenic Trail
The trail stretches across seven states, including Michigan. A concept similar to the Appalachian Trail, the North Country Scenic Trail was authorized in 1980 and parts are still under construction. It winds from west to east through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and cuts across the Upper Peninsula and along the Lake Superior shore, down the west side of Michigan and into Ohio, then Pennsylvania and New York. When it is complete, it is expected to be the longest walking trail in the U.S. at more than 4,000 miles long.
MotorCities National Heritage Area
With various partner sites in Detroit, Flint and Lansing areas, it is not so much a place as a concept. Established in 1998, MotorCities helps local historic sites and organizations find funding to preserve the unique automotive and labor union culture that grew up around the manufacturing of automobiles during the 20th century. “We do a lot of behind-the-scenes help in historic preservation, educational materials and tourism to tell all of these great stories in the evolution of the automobile industry throughout southeast Michigan,” said Austen Smith, communications coordinator.
It supports car shows and cruises throughout the area (you’ll know it’s involved if you see “Autopalooza” attached to the event). It also helps procure funding for museums and historic sites such as Ford’s Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit. Learn more about any or all of these sites at http://www.nps.gov.