by Patricia Alvord
EAST TAWAS – Tawas Point State Park celebrated National Lighthouse Day on Wednesday, Aug. 7, in conjunction with Michigan State Park Commission’s centennial celebration.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), it was 100 years ago when the Michigan State Park Commission set the course for visitors to enjoy and explore four seasons of fun. May 12, 2019 officially marked the anniversary of states parks.
“I just think it’s amazing and I’m so glad somebody did that started the system, so we have it now because 100 years is a long time,” said Tawas Point State Park Press Secretary Vicki Barnes.
The 58-year-old park is one of 103 state parks in Michigan that is celebrating the centennial celebration throughout the year in their own individual way, according to MDNR Southern Lower Peninsula Historian Laurie Perkins.
“This is a relatively new park I think in the score of things because being an active lighthouse it’s not going to be part of a park and in fact this part area where we are right now was under water,” said Perkins.
Perkins said that in 1919 was when the Michigan Department of Conservation and their Commission set out to find state land for parks and for the Tawas Point State Park that means that all the land surrounding the lighthouse today would have been water.
“Where the park entrance is where the first lighthouse was put in the 1850s, so that just shows you how much the sand bar has grown in the last century,” said Perkins.
She said that the building that sits next to the light house was built in 1876 and it was then when someone would have to row a boat to get to where the lighthouse sits on land today. As the Southern Lower Peninsula Historian Perkins attends to 12 different historical sites in addition to Tawas Point State Park with their main office located in Lansing.
“The main office in Lansing tells the story, it’s a time line of Michigan history from prehistory to 1975 and then we do temporary exhibits to kind of expand those dates,” she said. “If you look at the 12 museums in the system each one highlights a particular part of our heritage.
Perkins said museums focus on lumbering, mining and military history and statehood to life in Victorian America and Michigan’s Maritime history right in Tawas Point State Park.
To celebrate the monumental event Tawas Point State Park along with the Friends of the Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park offered guests a variety of festivities to enjoy throughout the day. In the morning, children were encouraged to attend lighthouse story time where a DNR Explorer Guide read to them. A little later on a scavenger hunt was available prior to the main festivities.
Throughout the day individuals were invited to visit the state park for free lighthouse tours, yard games, photo opportunities, crafts and more. According to organizers, 388 people visited the lighthouse in the course of four hours.
“It’s pretty impressive to be able to see Lake Huron, Tawas Bay and then the Saginaw Bay all kind of at one time,” said Barnes.
In addition to offering lighthouse tours, the Friends also displayed the works of two lighthouse artists whose paintings and photos they’ve used for fund-raisers and their Christmas cards. In late afternoon, award-winning watercolor artist Mary Lou Peters and natural photography artist Renee Kaiser Bird made an appearance to sign autographs at the centennial celebration.
Around the same time the Friends also offered free root beer floats with root beer from one of Perkins’ 12 historical sites, Walker Tavern in Brooklyn, Mich. As the celebrating went on, so did the reminiscing on the last 100 years. Barnes explained what she believes Tawas Point State Park important to locals and visitors of the area.
“It has a couple different importance, the historic aspect of Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park with the economy of the area and just the growth of the area of the lighthouse and the shipping all the things that brought to our area,” she said. “Tourism is a big thing here on the sunrise side of the state and Iosco County and everywhere Oscoda, so I think that’s part of it.”
She also said what she believes makes the Point unique to all other state parks. She said the lighthouse is one of the biggest things that makes it unique because not ever state park has one. She also mentioned the fact that the point juts out into Lake Huron and Tawas Bay and the avid bird watchers that come to visit every year. She also pointed the uniqueness of the point to it being one of the only location that allow for kite boarding with the changing winds.
“We can go around our point and go through the point to get to the bay side, so not everybody can do, so that makes it kind of important and different,” said Barnes.
To recognize Michigan’s rick history and mark this milestone year, the MDNR has scheduled a series of events, podcasts historical stories, videos, geocaching and more. For further details about the various activities throughout the state, visit Michigan.gov/stateparks100.
For more information about Friends of Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park, go to www.tawaslighthousefriends.com, check out the group’s Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.