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Pinconning Park, State Park May Gain Usage as State Campgrounds Close

April 9, 2011       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes will order in May the permanent closure of 23 state forest campgrounds.

Pinconning Park, run by Bay County, and the Bay City State Recreation Area may benefit from increased usage when 23 state forest campgrounds are closed May 19.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes will order in May the permanent closure of 23 state forest campgrounds, including 15 in the Upper Peninsula.

Reasons cited by DNR officials to close the campgrounds include declining use, the inability to reasonably raise camping rates any higher and still remain competitive and operational costs versus revenue, including declines in general fund appropriations.

The Pinconning park office is open seven days a week, year-round. From May 20 through September 20, office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. From September 21 through May 19, office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The office is closed December 25 and January 1.

Billed as the gateway To The North", Pinconning Park and Campground is minutes off I-75, in northeastern Bay County. Pinconning Park has evolved into a natural tourist attraction due to its rich history, prime location along the Saginaw Bay, and world-renowned walleye fishery.

The campground includes 50 modern campsites, measuring 30 to 40 feet wide, and 40 to 60 feet deep. Each site includes a picnic table and fire ring. Each site also has a gravel parking pad 10 feet wide and 30 to 50 feet long. The modern sites are equipped with 20 and 30 amp electrical service. Some campsites have water faucets on-site.

The total number of water faucets are 11 serving 22 sites. The park also offers a water tower, septic station, and a modern bathhouse.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission has received the director's order will affect 189 campsites and six cabins in the U.P. It is expected to be issued May 12, becoming effective May 19.

State forest campgrounds are not state parks. They are rustic campgrounds, with an adjacent stream or lake. State pathways are often at or near state forest campgrounds. These campgrounds offer hand pumps for clean drinking water, vault toilets, a picnic table and a fire ring.

"We have too many of these facilities," said Jim Radabaugh, DNR state trails coordinator in Lansing, referring to campgrounds. "Some folks are using them, but not enough to sustain them."

"These sites that are in the lower tier of revenue generation, while also falling within the closure objectives identified by the public and dispersing closures throughout the state in locations where other camping opportunities still exist," a DNR memo to the director from division chiefs stated.

The final closure selection process ensures campers will not need to drive more than 45 minutes to reach an alternative state forest campground, and in the majority of cases, that time will be much less, according to the memo.

Radabaugh said state forest campground use has been declining over the past decade.

"What we were looking at was what is the core system we can maintain based on the demand," Radabaugh said. "This is the balance that we've reached."

Some 38 state forest campgrounds, with a total of 760 campsites or cabins, will remain open in the U.P., and 72 state forest campgrounds will stay open in the northern Lower Peninsula, according to the DNR.

After the order goes into effect, the state will prohibit camping at the closed campgrounds and work to decommission the facilities, a process Radabaugh said takes several years. After that, the former campgrounds may potentially be open for dispersed camping.

In 2007, 20 state forest campgrounds, including nine in the U.P., were closed over a $75,000 DNR Forest Recreation Program budget shortfall. Those campgrounds were reopened in 2008.

The following year, a dozen state forest campgrounds were closed, including six in the U.P., that will not be reopened.


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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