Michigan State Parks are Eberbach’s passion

Melinda Eberbach

MANISTEE TOWNSHIP — Orchard Beach State Park supervisor Melinda Eberbach has done a variety of jobs and held several positions in the state park system, but one constant is that she loves the state parks today as much as when she got her first job in the 1980s.

“I love the parks,” she said. “I knew when I was a kid going to the state parks with my parents that this is what I’d like to do with my life. I started as a summer worker at Ludington State Park in the early 1980s and I became an officer at Ludington State Park in 1988. In 1999 I was promoted to the lead worker position at Orchard Beach and I worked with (former Orchard Beach supervisor) Al (Elzinga) until 2011, when I was promoted to a supervisor at Silver Lake State Park. When Al retired last April I transferred here.”

Eberbach also is in charge of the Tippy Dam Recreation Area, and her responsibilities may increase as the state parks take over management of state forest campgrounds and trails.

“We’re working with our partners in the state forest campgrounds and state forest management to take over their trail responsibility,” she said. “We don’t have state forest campgrounds in Manistee County, but I would be responsible for the snowmobile trail in the Wellston area.”

A big job looming for Eberbach is presiding over a big utilities upgrade project set to take place at Orchard Beach this fall.

“The bid process for the project has started,” she said. “We will close on Oct. 1 and the project is scheduled to be finished in mid-May. It’s a major project, upgrading the electrical, sewer and water systems. There might be a few other improvements, too, but that all depends on how the funding goes.”

Currently the electrical boxes at the park serve three or four campsites — the new system will put a box at each campsite. There also will be up to 20 campsites that have 50 amp service (the others have 30 amps.

Eberbach said another new project at the park is participating in the Recreation 101 program.

“Through the summer we’re going to offer a beach fitness class on Saturdays and Jazzercise during the week. During Healthy Active Manistee week we’ll have Walk with the Ranger sessions, too.”

There also are local businesses involved with the state park’s Passport Perks Program.

“There are a few businesses in town, and we’re going to go out and see if more are interested,” Eberbach said. “It’s really a good opportunity. If you take your registration to the businesses in the program, you’ll get special discounts. The list of all participants statewide can be found at the state parks website (www.michigan.gov/dnr).”

Eberbach feels that the state parks’ move to add $11 per vehicle to the annual registration fee is a success.

“It gets you into all Michigan State Parks, recreation areas, and boating areas and state forest campgrounds. We have seen a lot of positives with the program. One is that our number of day use visitors here increased a little bit, but at some parks, like Ludington’s, there was a big increase. It’s good that the passport program has brought a few more local people to come check out the park.”

Eberbach is pleased that so far her career with the state parks has allowed her to stay close to her home in the Scottville area.

“This is a beautiful area to live in, and I knew there were a lot of parks in this area that I could travel to if I wanted to,” she said. “I’ve been lucky to work at the parks right here on the lakeshore. All three very popular, nice parks, beautiful parks.”

She has lots of praise for the entire state park system.

“Michigan State Parks have so much to offer and there’s such a variety of state parks. What’s nice about Michigan State Parks is that each park has its own unique characteristics. At Orchard Beach on the bluff and we get some of the most beautiful sunsets, and you can watch the freighters go by. During the spring and fall you can see eagles flying up and down the coastline. Silver Lake is the only place you can have have the ORVs in the dunes, at Interlochen you’re so close to the fine arts camp, and what’s so nice about Tippy Dam is fishing — there are opportunities for so many different varieties of fishing.

“All of Michigan’s State Parks have so much to offer.”

Orchard Beach also is planning pets weekend on July 13, which will include a question and answer session with a local veterinarian and K-9 demonstrations.

The park will open for camping on Friday. Eberbach pointed out that there will be no water the first two weeks and said that they might have to plow snow from some of the sites.

“We’ve got a lot of snow,” she said. “All the years since 1999 that I’ve been here I can’t remember having this much snow in the campground this time of the year.”

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Posted by Dave Yarnell

Dave was formerly the News Advocate features writer and retired in November 2013.

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