Houghton’s Nara Park turns 20

HOUGHTON – The City of Houghton marked the 20th anniversary of the Nara Nature Park with a cookout Tuesday.

Attendees lined up to fill their plates with hamburgers, hot dogs and more. Dessert included cupcakes decorated with a map of the 100-acre park.

“So far, it’s great,” said Ruth Nara, the namesake of the park along with her husband Bob. “A lot of people came that we hadn’t seen for a long time.”

The park opened in 1993, when the Naras donated property along the Pilgrim River to the City of Houghton. City Manager Scott MacInnes said the park is the “anchor of the east end” for the city.

It’s become even more so over time. In 2007, the Naras helped purchase land to link the Nara trails to the Michigan Tech Ski Trails, creating a 50-mile network of trails for summer and winter use.

“We started talking about 40 acres connecting to the Michigan Tech Trails, then Bob (Nara) took the ball and ran with it,”

MacInnes said “It’s just been a fantastic partnership for us and the community.”

Two years later, those skiers got a place where they could warm up or shower. The ski chalet is also used by birdwatchers, hikers, sledders or people holding parties – including Tuesday’s.

And despite continual use, it still looks much the same as it did at its grand opening.

“It’s amazing how well the community takes care of this building,” MacInnes said.

Former Mayor Tom Merz remembered attending the ribbon-cutting for the park. He couldn’t have predicted how the park would flourish, he said.

“It shows how things can evolve from a small step,” he said. “It was a small step at the beginning, and it evolved into something none of us could have foreseen.”