2017-07-06 / Outdoors

Park plans to hike fees by up to 50%

By Hannah Lentz
Enterprise intern

By all accounts, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers some milliondollar views. Starting in 2018, those views will likely become more pricey.

The Lakeshore is requesting public comment on a second wave of increased fees over two years. Basic fees to enter and camp at the park are expected to jump by 25 percent to 33 percent beginning Jan. 1.

Under the proposal, week-long entrance passes for vehicles would go from $15 to $20, and the annual entrance passes would increase from $30 to $40.

Camping at D.H. Day would increase from $16 to $20 per site. Motorcycle fees would jump by the great percentage — 50 percent, from $10 to $15.

Back country permits for the Manitou islands would not change.

The higher fees were first proposed in 2009, but their implementation was delayed. The first phase of the jumps was implemented on Jan. 1, 2016. Prior to that, the annual pass sold for $20 and the weekly pass for $10.

Now the Lakeshore is looking at implementing the second, said Tom Ulrich, assistant superintendent at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The National Park Service received positive input for the first wave of increases in 2016, Ulrich said.

“We got a lot of support from people who use the park and know what the money goes toward,” Ulrich said. “Most of the opposition we saw was from a more ideological side than a side that thinks the money is misused.”

Ulrich expects the park to receive similar comments this time around.

“We will look into all the comments that we receive,” he said.

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore in currently a “Group Two” park in the four-tier system. Since the park has been instructed by the Secretary of the Interior to raise entrance fees to the full level by Jan. 1, the fee will likely go into place, Ulrich said.

“We were notified that we should go out and get public comment and that the guidance is that all parks should move to the prescribed level,” he said. “Most likely, rates will raise unless we find a huge reason not to.”

If rates are raised, the new revenue will go toward several projects on the park’s agenda including the production of a new park film and protecting the lighthouse on South Manitou Island from shoreline erosion.

“We’re one of the last parks that still has a slideshow presentation,” Ulrich said. “Without these kind of fees, we’re not sure where the money will come from.”

Current fees are going toward these projects as well as maintenance and preservation, Ulrich said.

Fifty-five percent of all user fees are used to update facilities including restrooms, trails and historical structures. Many structures in the Lakeshore were not made for universal access when built, Ulrich said.

“These fees really go toward so many great projects, projects we could never afford otherwise,” Ulrich said. “None of the money goes to our offices or things like that.”

Matt Duda lives in the Metro Detroit area, but his family owns a house in the Platte Lake area within walking distance of the park boundary. Duda and his family spend a great deal of time in the Lakeshore.

He understands the reason for the increase.

“I’d love the fees not to increase, but I know the fees for the state park annual pass have increased over the years and the fees for vehicles to local, city and metro park facilities have also risen,” Duda said. “For the amount of land Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore covers, I have no qualms about the $40 price. It will still be dirt cheap entertainment for the amount of time I spend in the park.”

Public comments made prior to a July 31 cutoff will be considered. Comments can be made at the Lakeshore website or through mail sent to National Lakeshore Superintendent, 9922 Front Street, Empire 49630.

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Use money to update hiking

Use money to update hiking maps to accurately reflect the trails. The ones currently in use are copies of those we received in 1993. With gps and Aerial photos this would not be a difficult task.