Editor’s Note: The following story is from the Great Lakes Echo, Michigan State University Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The author is Sara Matthews.

If you want to know if that latest fitness trend lives up to the hype, you can find out for free in Michigan’s state parks.

They’re offering more than just trail running.

Beginner kayaking, windsurfing, and even stand-up paddle boarding – what the Wall Street Journal recently referred to as the “fitness rage of the summer” – are just a few of the classes in Recreation 101. The program is designed to get people into state parks. Local outfitters volunteer their expertise and gear in beginner classes that also include archery, disc golf and orienteering.

“If you ever wanted to try something outside, but you don’t have gear because it’s expensive, or don’t have someone to teach you, we offer expert instructor to show you how,” said Maia Stephens, a recreational programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.“The gear is provided so you don’t have to worry about making an investment in something you don’t know how to do.

“It started last year, with the 2011 season,” Stephens said. “We had 87 events and 4,000 people participated. We’re offering 500 events this year. It seems to be growing quite well.

While Stephens supports the opportunities offered at Michigan’s state parks, other groups aren’t thrilled. Go Get Outdoors, a group based in southeast Michigan, is devoted to the protection of the state’s natural resources. Members believe the state parks need upkeep, not classes.

“The DNR has lost their focus,” said Robert Golda, an avid hiker and the head of Go Get Outdoors. “They’re focused on controlling everyone’s recreation experience.

“I don’t need them to tell me I should kayak,” he said. “If I want to go, I’ll find my own group and go do it.”

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