Fees Reduced at Rustic State Forest Campgrounds

By Howard Meyerson

LANSING – It’ll be cheaper from now on to camp at Michigan’s state forest campgrounds; two bucks less, to be exact. Michigan Department of Natural Resources director, Rodney Stokes today reduced the overnight camping fee from $15 to $13 at most sites.

State officials say the reduction was to bring the fee for those remote forest sites in line with similar sites at other DNR campgrounds.

“We want to lower the fee so they are more like the rustic campsites at state parks,” said Ron Olson, the chief of Michigan State Parks. Olson was addressing a joint meeting of the State Park Citizen’s Advisory Committee and Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointed Blue Ribbon Panel on State Parks. The group met during the monthly Natural Resources Commission meeting.

Michigan’s DNR operates 135 rustic state forest campgrounds. They are simple affairs in remote locations, just a tent pad, fire ring, picnic table, outhouse and pump for water. Most are located either on streams, lakes or trails.

Olson said they have fewer amenities than state parks where campers have hot and cold running water, toilets and showers along with staffing.

The new fee structure for state forest campgrounds will now be:

  • $13 per night at most rustic campgrounds;
  • $17 a night at Houghton Lake State Forest Campground, a semi-modern facility that was $20 per night;
  • $17 per night at equestrian campgrounds that were $20;
  • $17 per night at campgrounds associated with ORV trails that were $20;
  • Cabins and group campsites will not change. Cabins will remain $65 a night and group sites will continue to be $6 per night per person.

State officials say despite lowering fees, they plan to increase the amount of money they collect at these campgrounds which operate on an honor system. Campers drop an envelope with payment into a pipe that is collected by regional staff.

But that honor can be elusive in the woods.  DNR field staff report that campers often do not pay.

“If you are camping on the weekends, the likelihood of someone coming around and catching you is next to zero,” Olson said.

Stokes said in a memo to the NRC that he plans to provide “staffing that more closely matches use patterns,” at the rustic sites.

“Specifically, staff would be deployed to sites during the evening and weekends to in order to increase customer contacts,” Stokes wrote.

State officials are reminding campers that a state recreation passport is needed to use state forest campgrounds. New this year is that approximately 270 of the state forest campsites spread out in 11 counties can be reserved on the state’s on-line reservation system at www.midnrreservations.com.

copyright © 2012 Howard Meyerson

About Howard Meyerson

After more than 30 years in the outdoor writing business, you would think I'd know better.
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4 Responses to Fees Reduced at Rustic State Forest Campgrounds

  1. I suggest that the MDNR employ volunteer campground hosts who are on site and can collect $$$. That oughta raise the compliance a bunch!


  2. You would think they would do that, but maybe they don’t allow them to handle the money.


  3. philip carr says:

    I think its great the State is lowering the fees…while a buck or two is not huge motivation, it might just encorage more people to vacation up north, and thus add revenue to surrounding communities, and increase tax revenues for the State… The more outdoors people we can retain, the more the State will do help the resourses, especially if the State can see a return on investment. I think the “Host Program” will/could be of HUGE value adding eyes and ears in the campgrounds to deter vandalism and rowdiness, and offer knowledge of the resourses and surrounding community activities.


    • Philip: I agree with you on all counts. Lowering the price is the right thing to do. The former $15 per night was too high, given the rustic nature of the campgrounds. And having hosts is an excellent idea. What’s particularly good to see is that more funding will be coming to the program because it gets 7 percent of the rec passport fees after a certain threshold is met for state parks. It also means that the program will finally get the attention it deserves.


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