Beat cabin fever with St. Joe County parks

St. Joseph County parks provide a number of winter activities including tubing and cross country skiiing. Submitted photo

St. Joseph County parks provide a number of winter activities including tubing and cross country skiiing. Submitted photo

True to the predictions of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, this winter in Michiana has already provided a solid base of snow for people who enjoy winter sports. Indiana’s St. Joseph County Parks are ready to accommodate those folks with several outdoor activities, including innertubing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

“We open the day after Christmas,” said Jaime Hartzke, leisure services manager for St. Joseph County Parks. “The activities will be available daily over Christmas break through Jan. 5th.”

After Jan. 5th, innertubing and snowshoe rental will be open weekends only, from Jan. 11 through Feb. 23. However, cross-country ski rental will be available Wednesdays through Sundays from Jan. 8th through Feb. 23.

“One of the big favorites is innertubing,” Hartzke said. “The innertubing hill will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Park in South Bend and at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek Park in Osceola, Ind.”

Hartzke pointed out that taking children innertubing at those parks offers some advantages.

“Something different about us is that we have a supervised hill. We have staff at the top and bottom of the hill, so it’s not a free-for-all,” Hartzke said. “Both sites have a warming room, so they can come in and warm up, get some hot chocolate and snacks, and go back out to the tubing hill.”

In addition, innertubes are provided at the parks, so visitors do not have to lug their own sleds and toboggans along with them. In fact, only innertubes from the parks are permitted on the hills. In addition, innertubing is not recommended for children under 3 years old.

“The cost for innertubing is $3 per person. We will also have a gate fee in effect of $4 per car,” said

Hartzke.

“We also reserve the hill for private parties in the evening. Basically, the hill is theirs. You can book it for two- or three-hour parties,” Hartzke said.

“The warming room is available to them, and they can bring in snacks and such. It’s great for birthday parties, company parties and that sort of thing.”

Reservations can be made by calling (574) 654-3155. More information about private parties and the County’s other winter activities is available at www.sjcparks.org/leisure.html.

Each park offers visitors an additional option for winter recreation. At Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park, located on Ash Road in Osceola, snowshoes are available for rental on the same days that innertubing is offered , also at a cost of $3 per person. Visitors aged 50 years and older are invited to snowshoe on Tuesday mornings from Jan. 21st through Feb. 11th. Instructions, snowshoes and poles will be provided. Pre-registration for this activity is required.

At St. Patrick’s Park, located on Laurel Road in South Bend, visitors can choose to cross-country ski, and rentals include skis, boots and poles.

“Cross-country skiing at St. Patrick’s Park is set up the same way as the tubing,” Hartzke said. “But, since it is an activity that a lot of adults like to do during the day, starting Jan. 8th, it will be available from Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for rentals. People can also bring their own skis.”

“Skis cost $10 to rent. There is also a $3 trail fee for kids, $4 for adults. Or you can buy a season trail pass, which is $15 for adults or $10 for kids,” Hartzke said. “So, it’s a total of $13 per day for adults if you rent skis, plus the gate fee.”

An added bonus is that skiers can access the trails at the adjacent Madeline Bertrand County Park. Trail passes purchased at either park will be honored at both parks.

“We both groom our trails, so that gives people a lot more room to ski,” Hartzke said.

Finally, St. Patrick’s County Park offers a fun evening ski event three times over the course of the winter. Visitors can enjoy the “Cocoa and Candlelight Ski” from 6 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 10th, Jan. 24th and Feb. 14th. The cost for participating is $5 per person, and ski rentals will cost $10. Luminaries will light up the trails, and Manion Cabin will provide hot chocolate, coffee and water. There will also be an “edutainment” activity at the cabin.

While all of the activities at the St. Joseph County Parks are dependent upon snow conditions, the members of the parks’ staff hope to keep the tubing hill open even if Mother Nature decides not to shower Michiana with more snow for awhile.

“We do have snow guns,” Hartzke said. “We’ve been making snow just to be on the safe side this week. We have them running just to be ready for the opening event on the day after Christmas.”

 

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