The Department of Natural Resources said today it will work on existing agreements and contracts for trail grooming for cross-country skiing this winter, but will not enter into any new volunteer agreements during the current fiscal year. Also, 16 additional pathways that the DNR maintained in the past will not be groomed this winter. These decisions highlight the impact of a General Fund reduction of $423,200 to the Forest Recreation Program in the Fiscal Year 2008 budget.
"As the snow begins to fall, we have immediate concerns related to groomed cross- country ski trails," said DNR Director Rebecca Humphries. "Many of these trails are important to recreation activities that help the local economy and they are very popular destinations. However, given the General Fund reduction, we cannot continue with business as usual."
Under Humphries' direction, the Forest, Minerals and Fire Management Division is currently working on ways to further cut spending in other program areas to allow for the administration of contracts and volunteer agreements that were in place historically for cross-country skiing activities. General Fund tax dollars have provided support to this program in the past to allow DNR staff to administer grants, contracts and volunteer agreements for trail maintenance and grooming activities, and for DNR staff to plow parking lots and do trail brush cutting.
DNR staff has been directed to implement the steps necessary to enter into cross-country ski grooming contracts for the
DNR staff will continue to work with organizations that have existing volunteer agreements with the DNR for
The 16 pathways that will not be groomed, maintained or have plowed parking lots this winter by the DNR for cross-country skiing include:
"It is a very difficult decision for the department to impact these public recreation trails, especially as we are entering the popular cross-country ski season," said Humphries. "Michigan's natural resources rank at the top of our state's assets, contribute millions to the state*s economy and provide for an excellent quality of life for our citizens.*
"We have many other forest recreation responsibilities that will be impacted by the General Fund reduction of $423,200," said Jim Radabaugh, DNR statewide trails coordinator. "We are currently reviewing what reductions will be necessary, including the potential for additional campground closures in the state forest campgrounds program for Fiscal Year 2008."
State forest pathways provide non-motorized trail activities, such as biking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. The pathways are located within state forest lands in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula, and are not a part of state parks. There are more than 550 miles of pathways in state forests, of which 242 miles were groomed for cross-country skiing.
The state forest pathway system is offered for public recreation at no charge to the trail user and has been entirely supported by General Fund tax dollars, competitive grants and local volunteer efforts. Annual operations were $169,000 in Fiscal Year 2007, and grants received by the DNR for state forest pathway improvement projects and ski grooming totaled $930,000 over the last five years. Annual donations provided locally at the pathway trailheads averaged $4,000 annually statewide for the past 10 years.
The DNR also manages trails for motorized recreation uses, such as snowmobile and off-road vehicles, and also offers a network of trailways developed from former railroad corridors. These programs are not affected by the department*s directive related to cross-country ski grooming.
The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state*s natural resources for current and future generations.