DNR pilot project to keep boating access sites open for winter

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UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources launched a pilot project this year to keep some boating access sites open across the Upper Peninsula for winter ice fishing access.

John Pepin, Deputy Public Information Officer, says ice fishing is a very popular sport in the Upper Peninsula. Some popular boating access sites are also common places for ice fishers to park near for access in the winter.

“In the case of Greenwood reservoir where we are today, if the parking lot wasn’t plowed cars would tend to back up along the road and you know that causes more dangers with traffic passing by,” said Pepin. “And so we were able to work out for this trial year a pilot project to get some parking lots plowed at popular access sites that are boating access sites during the summer time but they’re also places where people really enjoy ice fishing during the winter.”

The project is largely supported by volunteers and partnerships with local road commissions. Stacy Welling Haughey, DNR U.P. Field Deputy, says this is a project that has been talked about for several years.

“What’s really unique about it is, it’s not a state-wide approach or even a county-wide approach it’s really an access site by access site approach which makes it very daunting and challenging to try to get something that’s consistent,” said Welling Haughey.

Boating access sites are maintained through boater fees and those funds can’t be used to maintain the sites for winter access. Welling Haughley says because of this, they’re trying to find creative solutions to keep those access sites more available.

“This is really just truly a pilot project we don’t know if this is going to continue or it’s going to work but we just hope that we can kind of create these working relationships with different units of government or even in some cases we have bait shop owners or fishing groups that would be interested in helping us keep that winter access open to some of those U.P. DNR access sites,” said Welling Haughey.

Welling Haughey says planning for the project has been interesting given the year and they would have liked to be able to have in-person meetings for outreach in setting up the project. She says people interested in partnering with the DNR to keep a site clear should reach out. The DNR is keeping a list of interested people for if the project continues next year.

“These are truly volunteer agreements so you know folks aren’t getting paid to do these sites you know they’re doing it to keep them open and it’s very much appreciated and we hope it can continue,” said Welling Haughey.

Pepin says in part, the level of use and whether sites are damaged from winter use will also determine whether the project will continue next year.

“These sites were constructed with boating funds and they’re constructed for boating, not for ice fishing so we want to make sure that the sites are able to be used during the wintertime but at the same time not damaged in any way so they can serve their primary use during the summer time,” said Pepin.

26 boating access sites will be kept clear this winter in 10 different counties in the Upper Peninsula. The list of these sites can be found on the DNR’s website.

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