DNR dropping state forest camping rates

Michigan residents and visitors will begin saving $2 a night at state forest campgrounds this year while about 700 residents have through December to address documented public land encroachment issues as part of the state’s effort to better serve people who use public land.

The two items were discussed Tuesday by Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, and Lori Burford, DNR encroachment specialist, with lawmakers on the state House Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

“Any decision that makes our campgrounds and state recreational areas more affordable to residents is obviously applauded by the committee,” said Rep. Frank Foster, committee chair. “These areas are not owned by a department or a government entity, but by the citizens of the state of Michigan. I am happy to see a move by the department to increase accessibility and affordability.”

The fee reduction at state forest campgrounds was made to align state campground costs with fees at state parks and recreation areas offering similar amenities.

Under the new fee structure, most state forest campgrounds will have a $13 per site, per night fee rate; campgrounds identified as serving equestrian and off-road-vehicle recreation trails, and the semi-modern Houghton Lake state forest campground, will charge $17 per site, per night – a $3 reduction. Canoe, trail and group campsites remain at $6 per person per night and cabins remain at a $65 per-night fee.

Information for most of the state’s campground facilities, including reservations, is available at the DNR’s online system, www.midnrreservations.com.

The second part of the committee meeting focused on the department’s Encroachments Resolution Initiative, which is intended to resolve more than 700 documented instances of private property owners’ unauthorized use or occupation on public land, such as fences and signs, or even parts of homes built on public land.

The initiative is an effort to resolve the unauthorized uses of public land at a minimum of cost to property owners and without fear of penalties by allowing them to apply to have their cases resolved during an amnesty period through Dec. 31.

“Common sense solutions have to be the priority when it comes to these minor property disputes,” said Foster, R-Petoskey. “People should take advantage of this period to solve any issues that might be outstanding. I am impressed by the DNR’s commitment to cooperate with property owners to address these disputes, and I encourage them to continue to take this approach on other issues across the state.”

Property owners who can show their encroachment was in place prior to March 1, 1973 can have property transferred to their ownership with a new property survey and boundaries. Structural encroachments that occurred after March 1, 1973 will be resolved through a streamlined land sale process.

Non-structural encroachments – such as fences, gardens, sheds and other non-permanent structures – that occurred on public land after March 1, 1973 will have to be removed so the land is returned to public use.