Earlier this spring, the MRG Podcast featured a conversation with Paige Lackey, who is embarking on an epic five-month-long camping excursion throughout the lower and upper peninsulas. (In case you missed that episode, you can learn more and take a listen here.)

MRG will be catching up with Paige throughout her travels, to see how things are going with her and Willow, her trusty and adorable 4-legged companion, and what she’s learning about our state’s beautiful rustic camping areas. All of this great information-gathering, by the way, is in the name of strengthening the state parks database, which in turn enhances the experiencing for all of us who love exploring the outdoors and enjoying Michigan’s beautiful landscapes.

Paige and Willow

Throughout this summer, Paige is scheduled to visit 77 rustic state forest campgrounds, collecting data along the way that will be managed and analyzed for use in the DNR’s Recreation Search database. The Recreation Search allows visitors to learn more about Michigan state parks and recreation areas (and campgrounds), state forest campgrounds, overnight lodging facilities, nonmotorized trails, park events and much more. This search features filters to search for amenities and activities you are most interested in, such as beaches, equestrian trails, cabins, hiking, mountain biking and others. (More information can also be found at Michigan.gov/StateParks.)

MRG did receive a number of comments on the original post, inquiring about the use of an RV during this trip focused on the rustic camping experience. (You can view all comments on the episode post here.)

We decided to check in with the Jason Fleming, who heads up resource protection and promotion within the Parks and Recreation Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, to get his thoughts on some of these comments (the DNR has received similar feedback themselves about this project). Here’s one of the MRG reader comments, which is similar in sentiment to others posted:

Taking a 30-foot motorhome to some of these rustic sites is just a bad idea. If you want to promote rustic camping, stay in a tent. Some of the sites won’t even accommodate a rig that big not to mention the seasonal roads they are located on are usually not the best.

Here’s what Jason Fleming of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shared in response to these comments:

All great points!

This was discussed early on, that a large RV is not always suitable for many of our campgrounds.  For those locations, Paige has been working with the supervisors to find alternate locations for her to park overnight.  I agree with the one response about it being more of an appropriate feel to have a pop-up or doing it in a tent. However, we are also looking at Paige’s well-being and while it sounds fantastic to be in a tent, she is working on pulling data together and the RV provides her with an adequate work environment.

Trust me, there is a big concern in the size of vehicles and associated equipment that are using State Forest Campgrounds. There are several factors (anecdotally) to point to:

Significant increase during the pandemic for people wanting to get outdoors

The inability for some people to get into State Parks when they are full

People trading up in a equipment as they get older, but still want to camp at familiar places

The idea that many people want to bring more amenities with them, thus looking at the additional space

Jason Fleming, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

We are putting together some work groups to talk about the changes in the dynamics in these areas and what we can do to better market these areas for what they appropriately have to offer. Our supervisors who oversee these facilities have these.

So it’s not a perfect set up, but we believe the benefits to what Paige had to stay and work was adequate for her needs and we find alternative overnight lodging when necessary.

In the end, the data we will get from Paige’s tour will be significantly more important than the optics of having an RV as part of her tour.

Jason Fleming ~ Chief, Resource Protection and Promotion, Parks and Recreation Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Thank you, Jason, for sharing this response with MRG readers. And thank you, readers, for your thoughts, too.

Please stay tuned to more information about Paige’s adventure here on the MRG blog. You can also learn more and follow along at the DNR’s Project Rustic page.

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