‘The days of closing forest campgrounds are over’
A change designed to bolster funding for state forest recreation programs and provide better, more coordinated management of all state-administered campsites and non-motorized pathways was approved at the March 8 Natural Resources Commission meeting.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Rodney Stokes signed a land use order, effective immediately, that classifies state forest campgrounds and non-motorized pathways as state recreation areas. It requires campers using state forest campgrounds and persons using the state’s non-motorized trails and pathways to have a valid Michigan Recreation Passport on their vehicle.
According to Friends of the White Pine Trail Chairman Dave Heyboer, the change is effective only for staging areas owned by the Michigan DNR, not all parking areas with access to the White Pine Trail.
“It appears that this will only affect a couple of the staging areas on the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park,” Heyboer stated. “Those are the Russell Road staging area just south of Cedar Springs, and the 44 Road Staging area just south of Cadillac.”
The parking lot adjacent to the White Pine Trail at Rogue River Park in Belmont, and the parking for the White Pine Trail on Main Street in Rockford, next to the Rockford Footwear Depot, will not fall under the restriction.
In January 2012, a reorganization of the DNR’s former Forest Management Division resulted in the transfer of state forest recreation programs to the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division so that all campgrounds and recreation programs of the Department would be managed by one division.
Since the Recreation Passport was adopted in 2010, it has only been required to enter a state park, recreation area or state-administered boat launch fee site. By requiring the Recreation Passport at state forest campgrounds and non-motorized pathway parking areas, the DNR hopes to increase sales of the Recreation Passport and provide more funding for state forest-based recreation programs.
“We intend to keep all state forest campgrounds open and available for campers,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “The days of closing state forest campgrounds are over. During this transition, we will raise awareness of the Recreation Passport requirement for state forest campgrounds and non-motorized pathway parking areas, and put those funds back into maintenance and operations of state forest recreation programs.”
The Recreation Passport replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boating access fee sites. This new way to fund Michigan’s outdoor recreation opportunities also helps to preserve state forest campgrounds, trails and historic and cultural sites in state parks, and provides park development grants to local communities.
Enforcement of the Recreation Passport at state forest campgrounds and non-motorized pathway parking areas will focus on notification of the change. Visitors who do not have the Recreation Passport will be given the opportunity, without penalty, to secure one for the first year.
Michigan residents can purchase the Recreation Passport—$10 for motor vehicles; $5 for motorcycles—by checking “YES” on their license plate renewal forms, or at any state park or recreation area. To learn more about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport, or call (517) 241-7275.
The Michigan DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.
In the early years of the White Pine Trail, the DNR proposed a fee for use of the trail applicable to anyone on the trail, but never acted on the idea after residents along the trail expressed strong opposition. The DNR also had concerns over its ability to enforce the fines for violators. At that time, the DNR had a full-time ranger dedicated to duties associated with the White Pine Trail.
Those interested in the future growth and use of the White Pine Trail are invited to attend monthly meetings of Friends of the White Pine Trail. This year’s meetings are scheduled at the following locations: April 11, Cedar Springs City Offices; May 9, Rockford Community Cabin; June 13, Sand Lake Library; August 8, Howard City Offices; September 12, Plainfield Township Offices; October 10, Cedar Springs City Offices; November 14, Algoma Township Offices; December 12, Plainfield Township Offices. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. and last approximately one hour.