Click here to watch a video, courtesy of WPBN-TV, Traverse City, Mich., about the following story.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and this weekend campgrounds in the Traverse City, Mich., area were packed with out-of-towners and locals looking to enjoy the great outdoors.
The Traverse City State Park was busy this entire holiday weekend,. In fact its entire campground was filled; that's 349 sites all occupied.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) park rangers say the weather played a big role in the business boom this weekend, as well as the 2012 Bayshore Marathon that brought in many runners to the area.
TC State Park Lead Trooper John Walter says, "We are more than up this year. This is the first year that we filled up our reservations about a week and a half in advance, it’s the first time I've seen that in the 26 years I've worked here!"
Even the storm system that rolled through Traverse City Sunday morning didn’t scare off campers.
Eighteen of Michigan’s more popular state forest campgrounds are being added to the state campground reservation system this season.
That’s a first for the remote and rustic campgrounds that have always operated on a first-come, first-served basis, the Grand Rapids Press reported.
“It made sense to allow those sites to be reserved,” said Tim Schreiner, manager of Traverse City State Park and the man appointed within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to usher the state forest campground program into a new era.
“We know the online state park reservation system gets tons of hits as people go through it and determine where to go,” Schreiner said. “It’s going to provide added exposure for the state forest campground program.”
The agency operates 131 rustic campgrounds. Most are small and primitive, offering tent pads, picnic tables, fire rings, pump-water and pit toilets. They are popular with the get-further-away crowd who prefer a quiet night under the stars to crowded state park campgrounds.
The 18 campgrounds added to the reservation system are both popular and located near a state park, according to Schreiner. That proximity is crucial, he said, because state park staffers will be handling reserved-site management.
The DNR’s state forest campground program was shifted to the Michigan state parks division earlier this year. DNR Director Rodney Stokes moved it out of the agency’s forest management division where it was languishing. The change was to streamline the forest division so it could focus on trees and timber.
State Park chief Ron Olsen said he intends to reposition the rustic campgrounds and increase revenues from them by improving management and making them more prominent. Reservations can be made online at midnrreservations.com. The cost is $8.
A state recreation passport also is required to camp at state forest campgrounds. That requirement was approved by Stokes in March.
Passports cost $10. They can be purchased when annual license plate renewals occur. Campers also can order them at state forest campgrounds. The payment envelope for camping fees has been redesigned with a tear-off segment as a temporary receipt, according to DNR staffers.
“If people already have a passport, they won’t need to worry about it,” said Brenda Curtis, the DNR state forest campground program manager.
“If they purchase one at the campground, it will be mailed to them. They can put that tear-off on their dashboard.”