Memorial Day weekend was steamy this year, but people at Tyler Creek Golf Course and Campground didn’t seem to have trouble cooling off. The campground pool was filled with splashing kids, and at sites along the creek, campers young and old were wading into the cold water.
Rick Rookstool, who owns the golf course and campground along with his brother Kerry, had traveled to the property for the weekend. He was joined by Jennifer Heard, the marketing director for Tyler Creek. Rickstool and Heard live together in Rochester on the east side of the state but say the Alto campground is quickly becoming a favorite spot.
“It’s a phenomenal area,” Rookstool says. “At the end of the day, that’s what brought us here.” He notes Tyler Creek is ideally situated in close proximity to Grand Rapids and Lansing, not to mention Lowell.
The golf course and campground have been a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike for nearly 50 years, and Rookstool and his brother have only recently taken over as owners. Last year was their first summer season, and they spent time getting familiar with its operation and cleaning up after a tornado hit the property in April 2017. This year, they plan to continue long-standing traditions at the park while launching a full calendar of new events and activities.
Special Events Planned Every Week
The events calendar at Tyler Creek is packed. From a Father’s Day weekend sponsored by Founder’s Brewery to haunted hayrides for Halloween, there is a wide variety of activities for visitors of every age.
Among the events debuting at Tyler Creek this year is a weekly Junior Camp. Last year, the campground experimented with a one-day camp in which kids helped make a video using a drone. After that proved to be popular, staff set to work planning an entire summer of Junior Camp days.
From June-August, kids between the ages of 7-14 can participate in the weekly camp that runs from 9am-3pm each Thursday. Each week has a different theme, including the following:
- Water fun
At the conclusion of the camp, there is an ice cream social in which parents can join their kids.
“It’s great to get off the grid,” Heard says of the opportunity to unplug and have screen-free time. The Tyler Creek Junior Camp is available to all local kids, not just those who are staying in the campground, and parents can sign up children for specific weeks or the entire season. The cost is $25 per week and includes lunch.
For campers, there are themed weekends that feature special events for kids and adults. These include the following:
- Father’s Day Weekend with Founder’s Brewery
- Shiver Me Timbers – It’s Pirate Weekend
- Mardi Gras Weekend
- Wild, Wild West Weekend
New Owners Focus on Family Environment
A friendly, upbeat atmosphere is one reason why so many people return to Tyler Creek year after year, says Sam Pyle who’s served as the general manager for 14 seasons. “Our culture is basically that we accept everyone,” he says. “We’re very relaxed out here, within reason.”
Within reason means the staff at Tyler Creek is willing to accommodate campers who, for example, want to host a crawfish boil at their site. However, those who leave their kids unsupervised to climb onto the roof of the pool house building, which happened once, will be asked to leave. Likewise, while adults are free to enjoy alcoholic beverages, the park does not tolerate loud, drunken parties or disorderly conduct on the grounds.
“There are campgrounds that get kinda wild and crazy,” Heard says. “This about kids and families here.” As a result, Rookstool, Heard and Pyle all have an eye on creating a fun, yet safe, environment that everyone can enjoy.
Natural Beauty One of Location’s Perks
Tyler Creek’s location in rural Alto is another reason to visit. “If you like nature, you’re in nature here,” Rookstool says. Pyle, who has certifications in wetland management and forestry management, adds the area is unique because of its topography and cold water creek.
Although known as Tyler Creek, Pyle says that’s a misnomer. Officially, it’s Bear Creek and Pratt Lake Creek that meet at the northern end of the property. However, the waterway was dubbed Tyler Creek after a previous owner, and that name has stuck.
Regardless of what it’s called, the creek is a certified trout stream. “We have some good fishing,” Heard says. A fisherman standing by the creek during a Memorial Day visit was quick to attest to that. “I just got here,” he said with a hint of astonishment after telling Heard about his catch.
There are also trails along the creek for those looking for a more secluded place to fish or hike. Plus, an adjoining pond provides plenty of frogs for kids to chase. All are nearby to Tyler Creek’s approximately 160 campsites. Most are modern with electric service, but rustic sites are available along the creek as well. Visitors can also rent one of three cabins or a chalet.
For manmade entertainment, there is a clubhouse, pool and playground in addition to the planned activities.
Golf Course Changes Necessary
Not all the changes at Tyler Creek Golf Course and Campground have been received favorably though. Rookstool sold part of the golf course and has heard from many people who were unhappy with the decision. “In order to keep it a viable business, we sold the back nine [holes],” he says.
Heard notes that an explosion of golf course development in the ‘90s means competition for golfers is fierce. Turf maintenance is expensive, and it can be hard to recoup costs. While the back nine holes were beautiful, from a business perspective, it didn’t make sense to keep them, and the property was sold to an area farmer.
“We downsized,” Rookstool says, “or I’d say rightsized.” At its start, Tyler Creek Golf Course only included the front nine holes so the change reverts the property back to its original configuration. Still, Rookstool says some people are disappointed, and he understands why.
However, he hopes people will be willing to come out, enjoy nine holes of golf and maybe return during a future weekend to camp with the family. “At the end of the day, we’re here to entertain people,” he says.