U.P. Campgrounds Stay Open
By now most have heard that the 23 campgrounds in the U.P. that were marked for closure will remain open. Director Stokes is withdrawing the closure order.
Having camped at Cusino as a kid, I was a bit torn on the thought of the campgrounds closing. In early April I started circulating emails to see what could be done. It wasn’t long before I spoke with John Madigan who serves on the DNR Commission and realized that the local municipalities had several options to take over the campgrounds. Within days I was exchanging emails all the way up the chain of the DNR.
A brief run-down on how this works:
The DNR can more rapidly execute a partnership with a Local Unit of Government (LUG) when it comes to campgrounds. Schoolcraft county and several other LUG’s already have this relationship with the State. They are successful relationships, with positive cash flow. If a LUG isn’t found, the next step is essentially for the DNR to seek alternatives, such as putting properties out to bid, etc.
This is really what I see happening now. It seems to me that the DNR did everything it could to work with LUGs on the campgrounds, but got very little response. I spoke directly to multiple townships and counties that simply did not respond to the states request for action on the campgrounds. Instead, they found themselves in a political fire-storm with the general public simply expecting these campgrounds to just ‘remain open’. My worry is that there will be no support or movement to volunteer locally and the state will eventually decide to just close the campgrounds. Frankly, I can’t blame them. I’ve followed all of the complaining and postured expectations since the first mention of campground closures and am surprised at the result. I expected the DNR to close them if they didn’t establish local relationships.
My “DNR Campgrounds” email folder has several dozen emails in it. Every single email is positive in nature and helpful. I was pleasantly surprised at how responsive they all were. Unfortunately, it seems like the lack of local response and support will lead to the inevitable. These campgrounds aren’t going to stay open forever just because we want them to, or because our politicians make a few phone calls and hold a few meetings.
We need to accept that if we really do care about keeping the campgrounds open, then we need to volunteer at some level to assist. If we aren’t willing to do that, then we’re accepting the closure as the next step.
There are several campgrounds in the U.P. that aren’t closing. In my personal opinion, more than enough to sustain aggressive growth in camping numbers for several years. If we don’t find LUG support for the under-performing campgrounds, they will close.
I’ve spent over 2 months and several hours exchanging emails, putting campgrounds on commission agendas, and as a commissioner myself, moving to support a LUG agreement. As it turns out, the support we may think exists is actually not enough to keep the campgrounds open long term.
Am I hopeful that something changes, yes. Do I expect that change at the LUG level? No.
I expect that many of the 23 campgrounds will close next year.
I’ve started a Facebook Group and a discussion thread on our forum in support of the three campgrounds I worked on. Anything I come across will be updated there. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on what else can be done.