When visiting Escanaba, a stop at the historic Ludington Park is a must during any season. As residents will confirm, sledding down the snow-covered Lake Michigan hillside is a pastime shared by many generations.
According to Dr. Charles Lindquist, a park historian, the mile long, Ludington Park has evolved greatly over its existence. Even offering attractions such as a zoo around 1915 and a toboggan slide in the 1920’s. Most of Ludington Park as we know it today, came to be in the 1950’s. That’s when Aronson Island was built, along with the Karas Memorial Bandshell and water treatment plant.
As soon as Escanaba sees winter’s first dusting of snow, you will find locals racing down the hillside towards Lake Michigan on tubes, sleds and occasionally an heirloom toboggan. Growing up only a few blocks from the park myself, my brother and I made the trip down the hill so many times we resorted to using garbage can lids and cardboard boxes when our sleds broke from overuse. We spent many-a-snow day competing to see who could slide the fastest and farthest.
The area of the park that offers the “best” sledding is the portion of the hill above the soccer field’s north-end goal and Harbor Hideout playground. Once snow covers the hillside completely, someone, presumably tired of struggling back to the top of the hill, usually ties a rope to a tree or light post for everyone’s benefit.
Sledding at Ludington Park is free, but it isn’t fancy. There are no tow ropes to pull you back to the top and the hill only offers a straight-shot down to the bottom, with an occasional snow jump built by adventurous sledders.
But if you are looking a fun outdoor winter activity to wear-out the kids and banish the winter blues, which also offers spectacular views at sunset if I might add, this is your ticket. Besides, in today’s age of connected devices, obligations and stress, it sure can be wonderful to go back to a much simpler time and just slide down a snow covered hill on our backsides.
– Written by Escanaba resident Carrie Bartel.