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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Michigan state forest campgrounds to stay open

After reporting last week that guerilla campers broke into and camped at a closed Michigan state forest campground, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes withdrew a pending order Thursday, which would have shut down 23 state forest campgrounds, including 15 in the Upper Peninsula.

DNR Spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said the department will use various means to keep the rustic-style campgrounds operating until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. After that, Dettloff said the campgrounds will all be analyzed.

"The director wants to do a review of the entire system," Dettloff said. "He was to build a system that's sustainable and that the department can afford to run. Because right now, they're not a real money-maker for us."

Unlike state parks, state forests are rustic campgrounds, usually with an adjacent stream or lake. State pathway trailheads are also often found at or near state forest campgrounds. These primitive campgrounds are used by boondockers and offer only hand pumps for clean drinking water, vault toilets, a picnic table, and a fire ring.

Several factors have been cited by DNR officials as reasons to close the campgrounds, including a trend in declining use, the inability of the state to reasonably raise camping rates any higher and still remain competitive, and operational costs versus revenue, including declines in general fund appropriations.

The DNR's Forest Management Division has committed to operating the remainder of the campgrounds until the end of the fiscal year, with funding sources as yet undetermined.

The campground closures would have affected 189 campsites and six cabins in the U.P. In addition to those 15 campgrounds, there are 38 state forest campgrounds, with a total of 760 campsites or cabins, open in the U.P. and 72 state forest campgrounds open in the northern Lower Peninsula, according to the DNR. You can read the complete article and see a list of the campgrounds which were slated to be closed but will now remain open here.

It seems it all comes down to money, but could volunteers solve that critical issue? This might be a good time for Michigan RVers to contact the DNR that volunteer/hosts could be used to keep the campgrounds open (as many commenters on the original blog wrote). If non-paid volunteers enabled the DNR to keep the campgrounds open, it could serve as the model for other state and national forests whose supervisors are considering the same drastic measures.

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