It's not every day that a new state park is christened in Michigan so, when I heard that Rockport had been officially designated a few days prior, it became imperative that I pay the newborn park a preliminary visit. The park is not entirely a new creation. Since 1997 the so-called "Rockport Property" has been managed as a piece of Mackinac State Forest. The decision to create a state park out of this property sprung from the desire to maintain the neighboring Thompson's Harbor and Negwegon State Parks in their current undeveloped status. By creating Rockport State Park, in which future plans include more high-impact development such as camping and boating, it will alleviate the pressure to do the same at the aforementioned parks.
Aside from the commercial reasons to place a park here there are certainly numerous natural and historical reasons as well. The park encompasses 4,237 acres, part of which includes a portion of nearby Middle Island which sits just offshore in Lake Huron. Rocky beaches, sinkholes, and dense forests are a few features that will attract the nature-loving tourist but it's the 300 or so acres that once comprised the site of a limestone quarry operated by Kelleys Island Lime and Transport Company that is perhaps the most curious portion of the park. Upon arriving at the park one is immediately confronted by the huge concrete piers, old tailing piles, and rusting equipment left when the company ceased operations here. The quarry is a well known fossil hunters paradise but otherwise sets in striking, barren contrast to the surrounding woodlands. Nature was certainly dealt a harsh blow here. Aside from a few small, scraggly cedars and ground-hugging junipers very little life of appreciable size has managed to gain a toehold within the rubble-filled floor of the old quarry. My heart simply ached upon seeing it.
So the future of this strange park will be interesting to follow. Untouched natural beauty rarely stands in such stark, proximal contrast to historic abuses heaped upon it within the boundaries of a protected area. To be able to see this place prior to any development is an experience I feel lucky to have had as well as an interesting reference to look back upon after future visits...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 45.202355, -83.382656