By Howard Meyerson
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Anglers, birdwatchers and others who enjoy boating on Fletcher’s Pond will need a state recreation passport this year to launch on the popular 9,000 acre flooding in Montmorency and Alpena counties. Michigan DNR director, Keith Creagh, approved a staff proposal in early February to require a passport for access there and six other state parks, recreation areas and boat launches. Creagh also eliminated the need for passports at three state forest campgrounds and a Mecosta County boating access site.
“Fletcher’s Pond is busy all year-long,” said Anna Sylvester, the DNR’s northern Michigan field operations section chief for its Parks and Recreation division. “Parking there is out of control. There were no fees, but we knew we would need to start staffing it to get the parking under control. So a passport will be required, which will help cover the cost of staffing.”
State recreation passports cost $11. The can be purchased on site or when license plates are renewed each year. The Passport provides free access to state parks, state recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, and more than 70 boating access sites.
Sylvester said the passport requirement was added at sites where staffing and other work will be needed. It was removed at sites where local government or other private concessionaires were taking over operations.
“Fletchers will be staffed on the weekends, and during the week it could be spotty, but there it will have a self-registration tube where people can buy a passport. They just need to keep the receipt, and we will send them one. If staff is there they can buy a passport from them,” Sylvester said.
Fletcher’s Pond was created in the 1930’s by damming the South Branch of the Thunder Bay River. Prior to that, it was a cedar swamp. Portions of its shoreline today are heavily developed, in particular along its north shore where the public boat launch is located.
The pond produces Master Angler-sized largemouth bass, black crappies and bowfin. It is also a popular draw for northern pike, bluegills and yellow perch. The most recent Master Angler largemouth bass was caught in 2012. It measured 23 inches and was landed by William Boettcher, of Garden City.
Fletcher’s also draws a birdwatching crowd who come by boat, or canoe or kayak, to see osprey, bald eagles and an assortment of waterfowl.
Sylvester said two other boating access sites will now require passport for entry: Dixon Lake in Otsego County and Tackles Drive in Oakland County.
Passports will also be required for entry to four state parks and recreation areas where none was required before. Those are Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Cambridge Junction Historic State Park, Coldwater State Park and Menominee River State Game Area.
“There is a large list of projects for Belle Isle. We have already rehabbed one of the closed restrooms. And we will be clearing trails and there are plans to clean the canals there,” Sylvester said.
Cambridge Junction Historic State Park has growing in popularity. The Brooklyn Michigan park is the site of the historic Walker Tavern, once a stop for stagecoaches traveling between Detroit and Chicago, a trip that took five days to complete.
“It’s gotten busy in recent years” Sylvester said. “And now we have to manage the traffic flow.”
Creagh also approved repealing the passport requirement at several locations. State passports will no longer required for boating access to Chippewa Lake in Mecosta County, or to camp at the following state forest campgrounds: Maple Bay in Cheboygan County, Thunder Bay River in Alpena County, and Van Etten in Iosco County. They are now operated by a local township or private concessionaire.
© 2014 Howard Meyerson
This story appears in Michigan Outdoor News