Fall hiking tour planned at Madeline Bertrand County Park

NILES — Southwest Michigan trees are putting on their annual color display as the temperatures begin to drop for the fall. A chance to learn a little more about local Madeline Bertrand County Park, while enjoying the fall foliage, will be hosted at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21.

The fall walk will be led by Love Creek Nature Center Parks Naturalist Lamanda Hilty.

Hilty will be taking attendees on a hike of the park’s trails, beginning at the visitor center at the park. The hike will last between 60 to 90 minutes, and cover 2 to 2.5 miles. Social distancing and COVID-19 precautions will be followed, according to Berrien County Parks communications.

“If the weather is nice, we may come across an eastern box turtle or garter snake basking in the sun,” Hilty said. “That is always exciting.”

Madeline Bertrand County Park, located at 3038 Adams Road, Niles, is 120 acres, with five miles of hiking trails, according to the park’s Facebook page.

“The park was originally a Christmas tree farm in the late 1950s, then developed as a campground in 1984 to 1985,” Hilty said.

After its transformation into a camp ground, it transitioned into the county park it is known as today, with views of the St. Joseph River, hiking and cross-country skiing trails, and an 18-hole disc golf course.

In her position as a naturalist, Hilty focuses on environmental education. She enjoys working with school groups and leading hikes and outings. She leads the Berrien County Birding Club, which meets one to two times a week, making her even more knowledgeable about which birds may be seen or heard during seasonal walks and hikes.

She is also responsible for trail maintenance and caring for the live animals at Love Creek.

She has been with Love Creek Nature Center for five years, and has a degree in environmental biology.

“Something I enjoy about Madeline Bertrand is the diversity in the park,” she said. “Not only are there several recreational activities available, but there is a wide variety of trees, spring wildflower and plants as well. There is a nice variation of ecosystems that provides great habitat for wildlife.”

The walk on Oct. 21 will begin at the park’s visitors center at 10:30 a.m. Participating in the guided walking tour in the park is free, though Madeline Bertrand County Park has an entrance fee of $3, unless entrants have a county park pass.

Hilty has helped lead this walk in the past.

“Every hike is a little different depending on weather, fall color and group size,” Hilty said.

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