20 Years of adventure

HOUGHTON – The City of Houghton will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Nara Nature Park with a public cookout from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Nara ski chalet Tuesday.

Bob and Ruth Nara donated the initial land for the park in 1993. The Naras had been approached by private developers about selling the land on the Pilgrim River. But since the couple had lived in the Copper Country almost their entire lives, and Bob Nara was a city official, they decided to go another route.

“We decided that the property was so nice that it really needed to be a park,” Bob Nara said.

The park has continued to grow. The Naras contributed money towards a land purchase in 2007 to link the Nara trail to the Michigan Tech Ski Trails. The ski chalet was opened in 2009.

“It’s an integral part of the park, because in the winter, it gives cross country skiers a place to change, shower, and a place to warm up,” Nara said. “It’s based on a theory that we have that life’s most noble aspiration is to make the world a better place.”

The Naras, along with the City of Houghton, have pursued several grants to improve the site – all successful, as far as Bob Nara can recall. Michigan Technological University has also helped with trail mapping and marking, clearing the trails connecting to Tech’s ski trails and harvesting the timber. Some of those trees were subsequently put to use in the park for uses such as bridges.

Chemical companies have also tested wood preservatives on the bridges to see which ones help wood hold up best.

“It’s a joint venture between the city, Michigan Tech, industry and the local community, all of which draws attention to the park,” Nara said.

The park has become very successful, Nara said, especially in the winter, with 100 miles of trail for people to explore. Some people get in a good morning ski before heading to work and for children who have a birthday party at the chalet before enjoying the sledding hill.

“We’re very pleased it’s all coming together,” he said. “This is the way we’ve planned it, and this is how it’s turning out.”