Saturday, November 15, 2008

National Forest Recreation Fees Will Increase

by Joan H. Young

Local recreation in 2009 will be more expensive in the Manistee National Forest. The maintenance backlog at recreation sites in the Huron-Manistee National Forest (HMNF) has reached $1.4 million. Annual costs are approximately $400,000. Federal funding does not support these sites, and income from recreation fees falls far short with slightly more than $200,000 coming in each year.

What this means for all of us who enjoy an afternoon or a week playing in the one million federal acres near home is that we will pay more for that privilege. Daily fees in 2009 will rise to from $3 to $5. A weekly pass will now be $15 instead of $5, and you can cover a whole year and receive a windshield sticker for $35. This currently only costs $20.

Overnight camping at developed sites now ranges from being covered by an annual pass to $10 a night. Changes will eliminate that perk, and most camping will be $10 a night, and as much as $15 at horse camps. Dispersed camping will still be allowed at no charge. Some sites which are considered River Access Sites and not developed campsites, such as Sawdust Hole and Blacksmith Bayou on the Little Manistee will be only $5. Parking at Bowman Lake will become free, as there are no amenities at this location.

Carol Boll, Recreation Program Manager for the forest, noted that recreation enhancements funds do come back to the local forests. Each forest receives 80% of fees collected in a given year. The remaining 20% is held over till the following year to cover potential drops in recreation use.

Perhaps most significant is that some local areas will be closed. Dorner Lake and Udell Rollways campground are being closed this year. Driftwood Valley and the Arboretum Trail will be closed at the end of the 2009 season. Pine Lake Campground, and Hoags Lake are also on the attrition list within five years. Rainbow Bend will be closed to camping.

Boll states that to replace one portable toilet costs $15,000. Maintaining the 112 developed sites within the HMNF just will not be possible in the future. Each of the sites is rated by priority. Locations that receive the highest rating include areas such as Wild and Scenic Rivers, Heritage sites such as the Lumbering Monument, National Scenic Trails, and the unique Loda Lake Wildflower Preserve. The areas which will be closed represent the lowest priorities and use. Closure means that all picnic tables, fire rings, toilets, fences, and signage will be removed. The areas may still be accessed by users, but there will be no amenities.

See Huron-Manistee National Forest
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