In mid-May, six Hiawatha National Forest camps closed abruptly, possibly for the entire season.
Recreation.gov, the primary online resource for booking campsites on the federal lands, sent notice to holders of canceled campsite reservations for six campgrounds in the Hiawatha National Forest in mid-May. The cancellations arose from the closure of the campgrounds by the concessionaire operator, S’more Memories, LLC. The move affects roughly one-third of the reservable land-accessible campgrounds in the Hiawatha National Forest, including Brevoort Lake, Lake Michigan, Carp River, Monocle Lake, Soldier Lake, and Bay View.
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Hiawatha National Forest spans 879,000 acres and contains 18 land-accessible campgrounds. The move by Recreation.gov to cancel reservations at six of the campgrounds has left many campers disappointed and confused as they scramble to make alternative arrangements. The situation was made more vexing by an opaque and conflicting story about the reason for the cancellation of all campground reservations, ostensibly for the entire summer season.
Recreation.gov emphasized that the booking site “did not cancel the reservations.” The Hiawatha National Forest authorities initially declined to answer direct questions about the sudden change. A Hiawatha USFS spokesman told a Michigan CBS News affiliate that the cancellations were due to campground closures because “trees at the campgrounds are unsafe and needed to be trimmed or cut down.”
Six campgrounds affected
Jim Akard contacted RV Travel to inform us about the abrupt cancellation of his July reservations. He and his family reserved campsites at Carp River and Monocle Lake campgrounds. “Everyone with reservations for any period during the entire season has had their reservations canceled. Our summer trip for mid-July has been destroyed. We received our notice on May 15th.” The notice of cancellation cited “hazard trees.”
The office of the Forest Supervisor for the Hiawatha National Forest in Gladstone, MI, confirmed that potentially hazardous trees were the root cause of the campground closures but then echoed the official USFS statement that “the concessionaire who holds the land grant for the parks made the cancellations without notifying USFS.” I asked whether it was normal for a campground concessionaire to close one or more campgrounds without notifying the Forest Service and was told that it was not.
Further investigation regarding Hiawatha National Forest
Further investigation revealed that the whole campground closure controversy is the fallout of a dispute between the Hiawatha National Forest and the concessionaire for the operation of the six campgrounds, S’more Memories, LLC. The dispute involves disagreement over campground trees that the operator considers hazardous and needing removal. The concessionaire’s side of the complex story can be read on the S’more Memories, LLC website.
I also exchanged email messages and had a telephone conversation with Jason Kirchner, Assistant Director for Communications for the Eastern Regional Office of USFS, who said that the agency empathized with the canceled campers and that the USFS was working toward a possible reopening of the six closed campgrounds at some point during the current season.