Macomb family opens outdoor park for hiking, ATVs, camping
When Becca Black and her family bought land in the Macomb area last year, she said the unique terrain gave her the idea for what they should do next – and that was opening an outdoor park.
The Ravine is an 80-acre outdoor park located about 15 miles south on U.S. 177, and it offers hiking, off-roading, cooking out, primitive camping, or even just laying back in a hammock and enjoying the scenery.
Becca, a former horse trainer, said she, husband, Shannon, and 17-year-old daughter, Kenna, bought the land in May of 2020, looking for a location that would be good for riding their horses.
However, she soon realized it was meant to serve a different purpose. With a mix of various terrains – including prairies, sunken hills, trees, and a ravine that cuts through the property – she said it felt like a place that needed to be shared.
“The more we explored the land out here, it just became obvious that other people needed to be out here and enjoy it,” she said. “Because just keeping it to ourselves felt selfish, because it's such a cool spot. The more we explored the land, we were just like, 'This is a park.' It naturally wants to be that anyway. It just came around organically.”
Coming about organically, however, doesn't mean it didn't take work.
Once the idea came to her, Becca said she gave herself two months to get things set up, hoping to open in the autumn while the weather was still nice enough to draw in customers.
“I had already built a really good horse training business when we moved out here, so I already had practice in what that looks like – how to start a Facebook market campaign and how to get people interested,” she said. “And I'm kind of a slave to manual labor. I love it. So that two-month mark was perfect for me because it was just enough time. I was about to cry myself to sleep every night because it was so hard, but that made me work harder.”
Becca said she had some help from her daughter, her husband, and even some friends, but did most of the work on her own, cutting trails by hand and building picnic tables and tree swings.
“It already led itself to want to be explored, but I've still put in a lot of physical work to get this place to be a cohesive idea,” she said.
The park opened in October of 2020 – though at the time only 40 of the 80 acres were open to the public, and she said she was still working on the concept.
Despite opening so late in the year, and even having to close for three weeks during a period when the weather turned bad over the winter, she said they have stayed busy, with 80 people arriving on the opening day. Even with being a new location most hadn't heard of, she said they were still seeing at least 100 people per weekend in the first months. And though things slowed down with the weather turning cold, she's curious to see what happens in the spring.
“We've been really busy, especially October, November and December. We were insanely busy,” Becca said. “It surprised the heck out of me and makes me really curious. Once probably April starts hitting, I bet it blows my mind how busy we are. Because it already has.”
Looking to the future, Becca said, she hopes to have events such as race days or kids riding days, as well as live music, food trucks, and even booze trucks on Saturday nights.
She also said she would like to “keep gobbling up land around me and just make the park bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Currently, she said, they are one of the smallest outdoor parks for off-roading, though she thinks the land is so interesting that it compensates for the small size. But also, The Ravine fills a unique niche in that it isn't only for off-roading, but includes hiking, camping, and family-friendly activities. A dirt bike isn't necessary to enjoy the land, she said, and she hopes to draw in people who also just love being in the outdoors.
“Every trail here is shared with everybody,” she explained. “A Jeep or a hiker might be on the same trail, but everyone is aware of that, and very conscious of it. And kind of the beauty, too, is that though there are trails for you to hike, I want you to explore, so you are welcome to wander off of trails. There's a lot of places you can get by foot that you can't get in a vehicle, so a lot of the walking area out here is kind of sacred ground. Everything out here is shared, but it's a very respectful sharing.”
The land is constantly changing, too, Becca said, from the stark contrast of red dirt with the bare trees in winter to an abundance of wildflowers during the spring.
“We've lived out here for almost a year now, and I'm still finding places that I've never seen before. There is still so much to explore. It's amazing,” Becca's daughter Kenna said.
The home where they live sits just past the little shed that serves as a check-in building, and their dogs and farm animals roam freely within the property. (To protect the family's animals, no dogs are allowed in the park.) The land – which Becca said was called “junk land” when they bought it, due to its unsuitability for raising cattle or crops – now serves as a playground for off-road vehicles and those ready to explore the outdoors. It's what Kenna called “a very modern way of living off the land.”
Becca said it's been an uplifting experience interacting with visitors. Some have even included folks from the Macomb area who grew up knowing a family that previously owned the land, and they've been excited to ramble around an area they once explored when they were younger.
“The interactions you have with people, they're so thankful and grateful that we allow them, because obviously this is our home. You drive up and our home is right there,” Becca said. “Everyone is so nice and so thankful to be allowed out here. How could you not love it? … All of the energy all day is good energy, all day long.”
Looking back over the past few months, she said she has no regrets.
“Be my own boss, set my own hours, come up with things on a whim and start doing new things,” she said. “You look around and four months later you've got 10,000 Facebook page likes and you know you've made the right choices.”
The Ravine is located at 40557 Highway 59B, Macomb, and is open from noon to 9 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. Cost is $5 per person (with children ages 10 and younger getting in for free), $10 for an off-road vehicle, or $15 for a camp site. ATVs, dirt bikes, side-by-sides, Jeeps, trucks, quads and mountain bikes are welcome. No dogs are allowed.
For more information, follow The Ravine on Facebook, or visit www.ravineadventure.com/#/
Tina Bridenstine is a reporter for The Shawnee News-Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.