A day at the park

OSCEOLA COUNTY – Instead of traveling far from home for a summer vacation, Brenda Gray and her family made use of the Osceola County Parks system.

Lounging in a beach chair on the shores of Big Lake, watching her grandchildren splash in the water and enjoying the 80-degree weather at Crittenden Park, the Evart resident enjoyed a family vacation without the travel time and expense.

“This is the first time we’ve been out here in a long time, and we just decided to come out for the weekend,” Gray said. “The staff has been really awesome.”

For $6 per vehicle, groups can spend a day at Crittenden or Rose Lake Parks, and enjoy time on the beach, playing games or having a picnic with friends.

“Six dollars would cover a bus for a day,” said Osceola County Parks director Carl Baumgras. “It’s a good deal.”

With their own camping vehicle or tent, people also can camp at the parks for a day, month or season, with prices starting at $17 per day.

Located on 10 acres at 3641 S. 50th Ave. in Sears, Crittenden Park offers a grassy beach with many large shade trees and a sand box for children to play in.

“(At Crittenden Park), we always have a nice breeze,” said Crittenden Park manager Richard Cook.

The park features 88 campsites, many with full septic, water and electric service, as well as a pavilion available for rent, grills, a camp store, a playground, basketball and volleyball courts and fishing areas.

Rose Lake Park is located at 17726 Youth Dr. in LeRoy and consists of 48 acres, including 1,300 feet of beach set within pine and hardwood trees. The park features 172 campsites, most with water and electric hookup, two picnic shelters overlooking the lake, two large pavilions for groups to rent, many grills, a camp store, a playground, boat launch, 18-hole miniature golf, shuffleboard and basketball court as well as fishing spots.

Though the parks experience the most traffic around Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, Cook said on any given weekend with hot weather, the parks will be packed with swimmers.

“I’ll have anywhere from 50 to 100 kids out here on weekends,” Cook said.

Along with providing facilities for recreation, each campground also will offer various events throughout the summer for daily guests and campers alike.

The parks will host parades, baseball tournaments and games to celebrate Independence Day. A blood drive on July 7 at Crittenden Park and July 14 at Rose Lake Park provides opportunities for guests to help others by donating blood.

This year, each park also will host a Christmas in July celebration on July 21, with prizes given to the best decorated campsite and hay rides with Santa.

“We’ll have Santa Claus ride across the lake,” Cook said.

Each Saturday morning throughout the summer, the parks will serve coffee for park guests to come together and socialize over a hot beverage.

“It’s a time to meet your friends and meet the other campers,” Baumgras said.

Funded solely through camper and vehicle fees, the park facilities are upgraded and new equipment purchased each year

depending on the funds available, Baumgras said.

This year, Crittenden park has a new typhoon playground slide with an enclosed stairway.

“If we have a bad year, that means we can’t get a lot of new things,” Baumgras said. “Our main goal is to provide a nice place for families to come.”

Baumgras expects a successful season for the parks, which will remain open until Sept. 30.

Camping reservations can be made by calling Crittenden Park at (231) 734-2588 and Rose Lake Park at (231) 768-4923. Park pavilions also may be reserved by calling the main administrative office at (231) 832-6130.

For more information, visit www.osceola-county.org or like Rose Lake Park or Crittenden Park on Facebook.