Free fun

Michigan Activity Pass offers free, discounted admissions

MECOSTA COUNTY — Summer fun on the cheap can be just a click away for area residents who have a library card.

The Michigan Activity Pass program works with public libraries to offer free admission or discounts to library card holders at thousands of attractions statewide. Organized by The Library Network, the program offers a simple website with clickable options to guide residents to cultural attractions, state parks, recreational areas and more.

Anyone interested can visit and follow the on-screen instructions. Residents type in where they’re starting from, how many miles they’re willing to travel, the name of the library where they have a library card and click on the categories which interest them. After clicking “Search” a list options appears, with a map on the left and a list on the right. 

Clicking “get pass” will take the website user to a screen where they enter their name, email, phone number and library card number and then can print off a pass for free or discounted admission to the activity they selected.

“What I really like about the program is families without a lot of money can pick how many miles from home they want to go and see what’s available so they can plan a trip,” said Mary Ann Lenon, director of the Morton Township Library in Mecosta. “If I still had a small family and didn’t have much money to travel, I would go check out the website.”

The Michigan Activity Pass is an outgrowth of an earlier program in which day passes for state parks were distributed by libraries, said Miriam Andrus, Big Rapids Community Library director. Today, the program encompasses much more than just state parks.

“I get an email once or twice a week listing new organizations that have joined,” Andrus said. “There are only so many passes for each event on a given day. If I want to go to Ludington State Park this weekend, there may not be any more passes available. People need to make sure they’re hopping on the site early so there are enough passes left.”

Library patrons can check out one pass each week, to the destination of their choice. Passes will expire, so users should make note of expiration dates before printing.

“People were starting to get a feel for the program last year,” said Heather Symon Bassett, director of the Reed City Area District Library. “The people who were taking advantage of the program loved it. 

“On top of the library resources you can get with your library card, there’s a wealth of cultural, historical and recreational opportunities just being a Michigan resident offers.”

Not all libraries in the area issue cards with barcodes or numbers, but all area public libraries are included in the Michigan Activity Pass website. 

Cory Taylor, director of the Walton Erickson Public Library, says library patrons may have other options. Walton Erickson library does not issue numbered cards. For Taylor’s customers, they have the option to put their name in the card number slot or their driver’s license number.

“There are options for nonautomated libraries for their patrons to take advantage of the program,” she said.

Residents wishing to know more are invited to contact their local librarians, whether or not they already have a library card.

“If you’re a new patron, it takes just a couple of minutes to register for a card,” Symon Bassett said.

Assistance is just a question away — librarians unanimously invited the public to come to the library for help using the website the first time or printing the page if needed.

“People can always come into the library if they’re not computer-savvy,” Lenon said.