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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Guerilla campers break into closed state forest campground

As the economy fails to rebound strongly, and local, state, and federal agencies struggle to make ends meet, an all too prevalent decision by authorities has been to close parks and other recreation areas. What happens to these parks and campgrounds then?

A recent incident in Michigan may provide a hint of one possible reaction to camping area closures. At the West Branch State Forest unknown persons moved the boulders that blocked entrance to the closed campground, mowed the grass in two campsites, and broke the locks to the restrooms.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources speculated on the guerrilla campers' motivations, questioning whether they were desiring just to camp, or wanted to protest the planned closure of more Michigan campsites.

The two campsites that were mowed were across the road from each other and adjacent to the restrooms. Tracks from a truck and a passenger car were visible in the sand and a path had also been mowed from the campsites to the river, suggesting that the intruders had camped there.

Will enraged campers continue to thwart efforts to block them from using closed campgrounds? Moving stone blockades and mowing grass are hardly serious offenses, but damaging property (the restroom doors) would make entering the closed parks more than just an act of guerrilla camping, but an act of  vandalism.

And if more remote campgrounds  are closed, and patrolling by forest rangers ceases, it would seem that incidents like this would become even more prevalent. Would posting of volunteer caretakers at closed campgrounds solve the problem, save money on light maintenance that they could provide, and be a deterrent to illegal campers? And a larger question, would campers want such positions, virtually alone and isolated from others--especially from nearby law enforcement?


  1. If the volunteers were only responsible for keeping their eyes open and calling in the authorities when something is amiss, I think there would be people willing to do it. An important factor would be the response time by someone who would enforce the rules.

  2. Seems to me the state and federal campgrounds belong to the citizens, not the state or feds. They have no right to close them to begin with and they have no right to keep us out.

  3. Why not leave the area open as a dispersed camping area? No Services No fees!

  4. Is there a bigger question here? These are public lands and should not the public have access to them? I do not support the idea of damaging property but do believe we should have a reasonable expectation to use the resources we pay for. Budget issues are everywhere and there are always choices to be made, but have the closing of public lands been put to a public vote?

  5. there is many of "We" retired military that are living in our RVs fulltime because of this economy and would love to provide this service! for a place to camp fulltime during the seasons!.
    these places can stay open, there is just not motivation by the US Goverment and state goverments to reach out to the citizens who have already bought and paid for this land with there lives defending it. Why wouldnt you?? what happened to citizen participation? why are you trying to just "Goverment" control the land? I want my daughter and her children one day to be able to enjoy the forests and parks the way I did as a kid.

  6. maybe they are out of work, out of benefits, and homeless. just looking for a place to land.

  7. I have been wondering why more effort hasn't been put forward to offer free camping for those such as retired persons to maintain campgrounds and keep them open at least on a limited basis. The tools and equipment are there to handle mowing and light maintenance so all the state park services would need to do is haul away the trash. Given support from the park rangers to handle enforcement would probably encourage volunteers. It just seems like the only avenue was closure with no other options considered.

  8. Re: danger -- boondockers routinely use dispersed camping on BLM land; how far away is law enforcement? In West Branch, there's a state trooper post in town staffed 24/7.

    Plenty of retired people all across America would volunteer to keep these closed parks open. (If it weren't for retirees putting in volunteer hours, most of our open parks would be closed as well). It was just easier for the bureaucrats to close the parks than to organize an army of retirees to keep them open.

  9. I think these parks could remain open with mom and pop teams with very little cost. All good campers would be glad to help keep the park clean and neat. there must be a better place to save money