Oakland County and Oakland County Parks and Recreation are commemorating one year since the first confirmed COVID-19 case with the Oakland Together COVID-19 Tribute Walk at Waterford Oaks County Park. Bluewater Technologies, known for its Glenlore Trails in Commerce Twp., has designed a half-mile long immersive and interactive light trail for visitors to reflect on the impact of the pandemic, remember those who have lost their lives to coronavirus, and give thanks to the frontline workers who continue to risk their lives to keep us healthy and safe, and express gratitude for all of those who have helped us through the last year.
“We need this moment to remember and express our feelings as a community after enduring a year of pandemic challenges, heartbreak, and even instances of inspiration,” County Executive Dave Coulter said.
The Tribute Walk will kick-off Wednesday, March 10 at 6:00 p.m. with a ceremony to serve both as a special thank you to county employees and a media preview. Brandy Boyd, a Parks and Recreation employee who lost both her parents to COVID-19, will be among the speakers. Other speakers include Coulter, Oakland County Commissioner and Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Gary McGillivray, and Bluewater Technologies Chief Revenue Officer Bob Marsh. The Tribute Walk opens to invited guests at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Oakland County Executive Office will broadcast the event live on its Facebook page (@OakGov.EO).
The journey through the illuminated half-mile wooded path starts behind Lookout Lodge at Waterford Oaks County Park, located at 1702 Scott Lake Rd. in Waterford Township. Organizations and individuals impacted by the pandemic, including those who contribute to the Oakland Together Remembrance and Gratitude Story Maps (more about the story maps below), will be invited to tour the Tribute Walk the evenings of Thursday, March 11 – Sunday, March 14.
“Oakland County Parks and Recreation is honored to host the Oakland Together COVID-19 Tribute Walk and have one of our parks become a place of remembrance and solace for those who have lost family and friends during the pandemic,” McGillivray said.
Beginning Thursday, March 11, the public will be able to pre-register for limited tickets for the Tribute Walk from 7:30-9:30 p.m. on Monday, March 15 – Sunday, March 21. Tickets are $5 per person. Bluewater Technologies will donate the net proceeds to an Oakland County charity which the company will announce later this week. There will be no walk-up admission. To register for tickets, go to oakgov.com/covid/tribute. To maintain social distancing protocols, tickets will be issued in half-hour increments through 9:30 p.m. A public livestream from the trail will be available online at oakgov.com/covid/tribute as well as streamed on the Executive Office Facebook page each night the Tribute Walk is open for those who are unable to make it in person.
“We are honored to have been recognized by Oakland County for our creation of Glenlore Trails. This was a wonderful example of the innovation that came from being under the challenges and pressures of a global pandemic,” Marsh said.
Ticket holders also are welcome to contribute to three tribute displays outside of Lookout Lodge each night the Tribute Walk is open. People can post photos of loved ones they have lost and add their name to a large Yellow Heart with Black Ribbon sign, the symbol for those lost to COVID-19. They can also write messages of gratitude for frontline workers on a large green heart. After the Tribute Walk, these tributes will become lasting memorials that will travel around public locations on the Oakland County government campus.
In addition to the Tribute Walk and tribute displays, Oakland County today launched both the Oakland Together Remembrance Story Map and the Oakland Together Gratitude Story Map for residents to honor friends and loved ones. Individuals can add the story or memory of someone they have lost to the pandemic on the Remembrance Map and share how they inspired others and contributed to our community. The Gratitude Map is an opportunity to express appreciation for those who have embodied the spirit of Oakland Together during the pandemic, from small acts of kindness for frontline workers to supporting local businesses and organizations.
Finally, on Tuesday, March 9, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter and Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist will provide an update on vaccine distribution in the state and county and start a conversation on how the lessons learned from the last year can help strengthen our approach to equity beyond the pandemic. The discussion will occur over a Zoom meeting with leaders of non-profits, faith-based groups, and cultural organizations. The meeting is by invitation only. The media and the public, however, may watch the livestream from 4-5 p.m. on the Oakland County Executive Office Facebook Page (@OakGov.EO).