MIDLAND (WJRT) - (10/01/18) - Beginning Sunday families will have a new place to explore in Mid-Michigan.
The Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens opens to the public at 9 a.m.
The canopy walk is the main attraction, but the 54 acre forest also features a new playground, cafe, visitor center, classroom space, and walking paths linking it to the Grace A. Dow Library and Dow Gardens.
"It's a different perspective to be on the canopy walk here, you're up in the middle of the trees," said Mike Whiting, Jr., president of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.
Whiting's great-grandfather, Herbert H. Dow, founded Midland's largest employer, The Dow Chemical Company.
At Monday's media preview, the Director of Dow Gardens spoke about how Whiting Forest has "deep roots in innovation and creativity". Elizabeth Lumbert was referring to Dow's influence on the project.
"This is trying to build on that spirit of innovation. We're trying to do something new and completely different out here that doesn't exist anywhere else," Whiting said.
The canopy walk reaches 40 feet in the air and is 1,400 feet long. It is the longest canopy walk in the nation.
And while countless families will soon enjoy Whiting Forest in a whole new way, Whiting is quite familiar with the land.
What is now the visitor center was his childhood home. He's told stories about climbing the trees on the land and falling out of them too.
He made memories with his siblings and hope other families will enjoy it as much as his family did. "I just hope that all the benefits of being outside soak in while they're here," Whiting said.
Alan Metcalfe of Metcalfe Architecture and Design, LLC brought Whiting's vision to life.
The goal is to let kids be kids, and have parents let loose too.
It begins with something simple. There's only one entrance to the canopy walk. "And that's intentional. The idea is to let kids run wild, with parents being comfortable, the parents could hang out at the knot," Metcalfe said.
The Knot is where the three arms of the canopy walk intersect before they go off in their own directions.
We asked Whiting about his favorite spot in the forest. He said it's the arm overlooking the pond.
"Captures the spirit of what this is all about. Being outside is just good for your soul, and that's the spot where it really gets into your soul and does you good," Whiting said.
Not only will Whiting Forest at Dow Gardens be breathtaking as leaves change color, there is special equipment to clear the path so it will be available in the winter months as well.