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Michigan residents should get priority booking for state parks

Public Domain/CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

It can be hard to book a campsite at Michigan’s popular state parks with out-of-staters vying for space too. Now residents may get first dibs under a new proposed bill

“Camping is not a partisan issue.”

State Representative Cam Cavitt of Cheboygan has introduced a bill to give Michigan residents priority access to state parks and forests by allowing them to make reservations for campsites two weeks before non-residents could sign up.

“Michigan taxpayers fund our state parks, so it just seems fair that when Michigan citizens want to use our state parks, their reservations should get a priority before we give it to out-of-state residents.”

But the DNR says that might not be the problem. Out-of-staters made up just 12-14% of bookings in the last five years according to Ron Olsen, Parks and Recreation Chief for the Department of Natural Resources.

“The idea of having a two-week waive period probably wouldn’t do much to way leigh the demand because clearly the majority of the people - 86-88% - are residents already.”

People can book online six months in advance. This January, a third of the campsites in Michigan were already booked for summer.

The most popular, like Ludington and Grand Haven, fill up completely - sometimes within an hour or two of becoming available.

The DNR has added more spaces where feasible including yurts and cabins to increase supply.

“Every time we put those in they fill up just as fast as campsites”

They raised cancellation fees so people don’t book multiple sites and sit on them until cancelling last-minute, and created an app for those wait-listed.

Representative Cavitt says it’s not so much about the waiting list as it is making Michigan residents a priority.

”It might be tough to get something on the Fourth of July, but this gives you a better shot.”

The bill heads to committee next for further discussion.

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