Playing at Ramona Park, Portage, Michigan
Great for families, not for teens. This should be the motto for Ramona Park.
Memorial weekend 2012 came, and so did the forecast of clouds rolling in by 2 and showers by 3, which meant driving 45 minutes to the perfect beach destination, South Haven, Michigan, wasn't foreseeable. Instead, my college student friends and I opted for somewhere closer and unknown to us till Memorial day morning.
Located in Portage, Michigan, Ramona Park is a mere 15 minutes from Kalamazoo, or 5 minutes from the local mall, so when that supposed-rain came, we had a safe haven on how to spend our day.
Long Lake serves as the waterfront for Ramona Park. Most of the lakefront is private, owned by home-owners and only a small portion is offered for swimming, as outlined by buoys.
Luckily, because it's a small lake, the water is warm and perfect for cooling off on a hot day. It's even better because there's no muck on the ground or seaweed, so your feet are sure to not question what they're stepping on. The sand can heat up so make sure to wear sandals when walking around.
The beach isn't very vast but never seemed to be overly-crowded.
Unfortunately, for me and my friends, the beach was overly-crowded in the sense of there only being families with younger children, which makes it great for them, but not us. We were the only ones near our age unless an older sibling was dragged along. On the positive side, we were able to hang out in the deep end, near the buoys without worrying about kids, because we were the few who could legitimately swim or stand.
For families, Ramona has several lifeguards on duty. There are at least two in lifeguard chairs overlooking the water. They're very responsible.
When a child went missing, they cleared everyone out of the water and formed a safety line to find the child. Fortunately, he was safe and only eating a hotdog on a slide, so one will know that there are preventive measures to ensure the safety of all swimmers.
The lifeguards are also sticklers for the rules. They will blow their whistle at you for horsing around or rough play in the water. And everyone is subject to it - we went outside the buoys just to dip our feet in and were told to not go past our knees. Silly rules at our age, but protective and sensible for families.
Even though we were the only ones our age, Ramona Park was still enjoyable. We got our tan and swim on, which is what we had desired all along.
While the park may seem small for a vacation, there are several other amenities (unused by us) that make it great for a day trip. There are two beach volleyball pits, a playground, a vast field for soccer or football, and a picnic area with grills. It was our one regret, not bringing hotdogs to grill as the smells had our mouths watering.
To spend a day at Ramona Park is only $10 (non-resident of Portage) to park, making it a cheap and fun outing. For more information check out portagemi.gov/Departments/ParksRecreation/ParksAmenitiesListing/RamonaPark.aspx