But they uniquely to provide recreation to urban dwellers.
Upon arrival you find yourself enveloped in mile after mile of green space, part of a “greenbelt” of 25,000 acres surrounding metro Detroit.
“It’s really an opportunity to provide recreational services to the various communities in such a way that you could connect these communities,” Metroparks director George Phifer said.
The parks are surprisingly bucolic given they are so close to urban areas but that was the intention of the founders who set up them up in 1939.
There’s hiking, swimming, boating, camping, cycling trails, picnicking, birding, playgrounds, even golf and horseback riding.
In winter there is tobogganing and snowboarding, cross country skiing, and ice fishing.
The parks “have a significant impact on the quality of life,” for Detroit area residents, Phifer said.
Indeed some nine million people use them each year, buying day or seasonal passes.
There are 13 parks, all having more than 1000 acres, with the two largest - Stony Creek and Kensington, having more than 4,000.
They’re sometimes integrated into surrounding communities, such as the network of 55 miles of hiking and cycling trails connecting nearby municipalities.
For kids, the parks have plenty of playgrounds and for adults, as many as eight regulation golf courses and two par-three’s.
Phifer called those who started the system “visionaries” long before greenspace became recognized as an important refuge from urban and suburban living.
The land undoubtedly would have been developed for subdivisions and strip plazas.
The parks grew along the Huron and Clinton rivers, hence their name Huron-Clinton Metroparks.
Phifer said they’re unique in the United States.
“It’s very rare to have that type of footprint out there connected with so many people throughout the various communities,” he said.
How’s the system funded?
Seventy-five per cent comes through property taxes of the five counties that pay for them, the remainder through daily and yearly passes and user fees for canoe, paddleboat and kayak rentals.
“With Metroparks the interesting thing is that you can come in and you can spend $10 and spend a whole day at a park,” Phifer said, unlike journeying to places like Sandusky, Ohio, or Florida, spending much bigger bucks.