Michigan Parks Look for Busy Summer

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April 26, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Higher gas prices could mean more traffic this summer at campgrounds along Michigan's Lake Huron coastline.

Year-to-date reservations at state-owned campgrounds are up 18-20% from last year, said Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Port Huron Times Herald reported.

“If we see gas prices reach over $4 a gallon, all the state parks in the lower part of the state (soon) will be booked” for summer, Dettloff said.

Owners of private campgrounds also are noticing a bump in business and a change in where campers are traveling from.

Vacationers who used to own cabins and cottages farther north have sold that real estate and invested in campers they park at campgrounds and visit on day trips, said Todd Hess, owner of Fort Trodd Family Campground Resort in Clyde Township.

“People are picking out spots where they can stay local and stay for the summer,” he said.

All of the 461 campsites at the Port Huron KOA in Kimball Township have been booked for Memorial Day weekend. The campground is almost filled for July 4, office supervisor Bobbie Marks said.

“When (gas) prices go up, we see more locals,” Marks said.

Algonac State Park in Clay Township has seen a decline in the average length of campers' stay in the past few years, supervisor Dennis Wilson said.

In an attempt to draw in crowds, fees have been reduced from $25 to $22 a night this year for campsites farther away from the St. Clair River. The nightly fee for sites closer to the river remains $27.

The strategy seems to be working. The park is booked for the Memorial Day and July 4 weekends, Wilson said.

“We're expecting to have a really good year,” Wilson said.

Officials at Lakeport State Park in Burtchville Township also are anticipating a strong season, supervisor Mark Sine said.

While gas prices are driving the trend, Dettloff said last year's introduction of the Recreation Passport also is a factor. People who buy the passport — $10 tacked onto their vehicle registration fee — get the annual entrance fee to state parks cut in half.

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