The Department of Natural Resources announced that the state’s Forest Recreation Program has seen a 63-percent decrease in funding in the last three years, resulting in the need for the department to close 23 under-performing state forest campgrounds in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.
The order to close the 23 campgrounds were submitted as a proposal at Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting in Lansing, and will be eligible for action by DNR Director Rodney Stokes at the NRC’s May 12 meeting in Flint. If approved at the May meeting, the closures would be effective on May 19, 2011.
State forest campgrounds are not state parks. State forest campgrounds are rustic sites with fewer amenities than a state park. They are unstaffed and provide a more rustic, tent camping experience. Every state forest campground is located on a river or lake, and more than 60 campgrounds have nearby pathways for non-motorized trail recreation, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature observation. Accommodations range from five to 50 campsites, with group sites available. All campgrounds have vault toilets and potable water from hand pumps.
General Fund support for state forest recreation programs, such as the state forest campgrounds, has been reduced every year since 2009, when $72,200 was cut. In 2010, $24,100 was cut from the program, and in Fiscal Year 2011, the program is targeted for a $314,700 General Fund reduction.
“While revenue has remained even in the last decade, due to camping fee increases in 2002 and in 2007, state forest campground fees are now at the high end of the market at $15 a night per individual site,” said Cara Boucher, assistant chief of the DNR’s Forest Management Division. “Meanwhile, the number of registrations and campers has steadily dropped over the same period. Given the long-term trend of declining use and the inability to raise camp fee revenues, the only way to absorb the current cut in General Fund support is to close some campgrounds.”
To address the reduced camping demand and insufficient funding to maintain all state forest campgrounds, the DNR will close underutilized campgrounds, Boucher said.
“We will preserve the campgrounds that perform well, and provide a diverse selection for the campers,” Boucher said. “The campgrounds targeted for closure are under-performing and close to other state forest campgrounds, so we can still provide camping opportunities in those areas.”
Currently, the highest-performing state forest campground generates more than $40,000 annually in revenue, while the lowest-performing generates just over $300 a year.
The campgrounds targeted for closure are:
• Beaufort and Big Lake state forest campgrounds – Baraga County
• Black Lake Trail Camp – Cheboygan County
• Lime Island State Forest Campground and Cabins and Munuscong River State Forest Campground – Chippewa County
• Manistee River Bridge State Forest Campground – Crawford County
• Deer Lake State Forest Campground – Iron County
• Bray Creek State Forest Campground – Lake County
• Blind Sucker #1, High Bridge, Holland Lake, Natalie and Reed & Green Bridge state forest campgrounds – Luce County
• Black River State Forest Campground – Mackinac County
• Little Wolf Lake State Forest Campground – Montmorency County
• McCollum Lake State Forest Campground – Oscoda County
• Pigeon Bridge and Round Lake state forest campgrounds – Otsego County
• Canoe Lake, Cusino Lake, Mead Creek and South Gemini Lake state forest campgrounds – Schoolcraft County
• Long Lake State Forest Campground – Wexford County
To read the informational memo on the state forest campground closures provided to the NRC at the April 7 meeting, go to the NRC’s website at http://www.michigan.gov/nrc and click on Agendas and Minutes to find the April 7 agenda. To read the memo, click on the box for the order on page two of the agenda.