With so much in Metro Detroit closed due to virus, nature beckons

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Nature is open. If you're thinking about doing something fun indoors, though, you might need to make other plans.

Amid widespread coronavirus shutdowns, the 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks will welcome you, with a few on-site limitations. State parks are emerging from hibernation. Golf courses are beginning to spring to life.

But as of 3 p.m. Monday, by order of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a lot of the places families might clamor for were shut down at least through March 30.

Friends Aleks Huk, right, of Sterling Heights and Andy Deabnski of Clinton Township fish from the shore at Lake St. Clair Metropark in 2018.

Libraries and museums. Bowling centers, skating rinks and movie theaters. Indoor climbing centers and trampoline parks.

Restaurants can't seat you, though carry-out, drive-thru and delivery are acceptable options. Recreation and workout centers are unfit. Those suddenly ubiquitous lounges with water pipes can't hookah you up.

What's left? Not Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth; a holdout for several days, it has announced a closure from Friday through March 31. Zehnder's water park is  also closed and the town's famous restaurants are carryout only. Instead, try the parts of the great outdoors that don't require snow.

"It's an ever-changing situation," said Metroparks spokeswoman Danielle Mauter, but for now the spaces are wide open.

Exceptions, she said, are public and school programs, which are canceled, and the parks system's interpretive and nature centers and the farm centers at Kensington and Wolcott Mill, which are closed.

"The animals still stay there," she said. "You laugh, but those are the questions that come to us.

"Our staff still comes to work to take care of them, but the centers are closed to the public because they draw large numbers of people to one location."

Likewise, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has a list of closures through April 13 on its website, including Detroit's Outdoor Adventure Center, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and Belle Isle Aquarium.

There are no locks, however, on the state's forests and trails — or on the city's. Friends of Rouge Park advises that the trails there are ready for strolling, with maps and parking information available via The Hiking Project.

Two Detroit golf courses, Rackham and Chandler Park, have opened for spring, and Rouge Park was scheduled to join them Wednesday. For information on courses elsewhere, call directly; after some initial confusion, the governor's office confirmed that clubhouse access will be limited, but clubs can be swung.

In a bit of a coronavirus oddity, you can practice at an outdoor driving range, but not at a golf dome, which falls under "indoor sports facility." As for Topgolf, the three-deck bar, restaurant and driving range in Auburn Hills, it's closed until further notice.

"We keep the place clean. We sanitize everywhere," said manager Manny Ganaway of Oasis Golf Center in Plymouth, and "this is one of our busiest months." But the facility is enclosed in a bubble, so it's covered by the governor's temporary restrictions.

Royal Oak Golf Center's 90 hitting bays are open-air, and each is 10 feet wide, establishing proper social distance.

"We're trying to be an opportunity for something to do that's safe during the crisis," said PGA professional and general manager Glenn Pulice. "We're trying to be proactive, taking our cleaning up to the CDC levels of how to do it and doing it more often than what they're saying."

Skiers might find themselves with unexpected free time, but full-service resorts like Treetops in Gaylord and Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls have closed due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Metro Detroit, said general manager Mark Tibbitts of Mt. Holly Ski and Snowboard Resort, warm weather spoiled the fun before the virus could.

"We're still holding out hope something will come in that's a little wintry," he said. "We still have some base left. But nothing is really sending out the 'let's go skiing' message."

In this file photo, Sarah McMorran, 11, and her older sister Katie, 14,  play at  Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills.

Conditions would ordinarily be ideal for Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills: unexpected school closings, decent weather. Whitmer's notice, alas, specifically mentions arcades.

Jeremy Yagoda, second-generation owner of the vintage coin-op collection, said he's sorry he can't perk up the potentially dull days.

"We hoped to make things a little more marvelous for people while they're stuck," he said, but when uncertainty is racking up replays, "we have to do what's best for everybody."


Twitter: @nealrubin_dn