White Pine Valley Recreation Area may once again be available for camping

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MECOSTA COUNTY – White Pine Valley Recreation Area may become available again for Mecosta County youth groups, if approved as a licensed rustic campground.

The site was closed to camping in June after the parks commission asked the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners to remove the land from the park’s inventory due to safety concerns and a lack of control over the site. access to the site.

“We are asking the board to review the pre-agreement and consider denying liability by removing these buildings and asking these groups to use one of our other facilities,” he told AFP. then Mecosta County Parks Superintendent Jeff Abel.

Council referred the application to the Building and Grounds Committee asking them to review the facilities and make a recommendation as to whether or not to close the site.

Residents, former Boy Scout masters and local government officials spoke in favor of keeping the site for use by Mecosta County youth groups at the building and grounds committee meeting earlier this month- this.

During the meeting, Abel explained that the main concern with keeping the area open to camping was that it was not a licensed campground and there were liability issues for the campground. county, in addition to security concerns.

The Mecosta County Parks Board approved a motion allowing Abel to pursue licensing and designation of the area as a rustic campground at its meeting this week.

“We asked the commission to get rid of it and they said no, so my feeling is that unless the county comes back and tells us they want to sell it or lease it, our obligation is to consider to turn it into a rustic campground,” said park board chairman Steve Stratton.

He added that Abel was exploring the process of turning the site into a licensed rustic campground and that things were progressing on that.

Abel said he had conversations with the Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment to seek clarification on whether, by allowing it as a primitive group camping area , they should open it up to other camping groups.

“If we were to specify that it was intended for use by youth groups, that might be under a different licensing body,” he said, “but we are having conversations with EGLE in preparation to submit a license.

“This will require repairing the vault toilet and adding a water supply,” he continued. “We would need to designate specific sites for camping and designate the number of campers allowed at each site.”

He added that if they were to obtain a license for the facility as a primitive campground, there would have to be an agreement in place similar to that used at other campgrounds in the county.

“Troop leaders would have to approve liability and it would be up to them to get signed waivers from each member of the troop,” he said.

Boy Scoot Troop 114 committee chair Jeff Hardesty told the board that the committee has supported the use of the area by Boy Scouts for the past 50 years. I hope I can continue to do so.

“We want to express our support for the continued use of the area,” Hardesty said. “Our goal is to make the area accessible to young people in Mecosta County to enjoy the outdoors, and whatever we need to do to help the park commission do that, we intend to do that. . We will work with the county on the guidelines that will be established.

“The committee voted unanimously that we would demolish the building,” he continued. “We put it there and we will remove it at no cost to the county or township. We want to make sure that whatever groups of young people are using it, we do it in a way that suits the parks commission with all the proper agreements in place and we will mobilize our resources to make sure that happens. produce.

Hardesty added that they would like the board to clarify whether Scouts could continue to use the site until the licensing process is complete.

“We have, as a council, taken action to prohibit all camping there until the county can assess the condition of the building and the scouts have asked us to rescind that,” Stratton said. “I’m not advocating that we cancel it because I think we still have issues with rustic camping and the regulations that we still have to deal with.”

Abel said they have no concerns about scouts using the area for daytime camping activities, but would still like to ban overnight camping.

He added that no new construction can take place on the toilets, well or pavilion until the proper permits have been acquired.

A motion to obtain a license as a rustic campground was approved with the understanding that the facility can be used as day camping, but no overnight camping would be permitted at this time.

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