With Looming State Shutdown, State Parks’ Future Uncertain

With Labor Day weekend marking the unofficial end to summer, traffic at state parks is sure to dwindle, possibly stopping altogether if Michigan sees a government shutdown.

The campgrounds and beaches at state parks across Michigan were packed this weekend as the summer winds down but the chilly weather isn’t the only thing clouding the future of state parks.

“It’s been a very typical summer,” says Manny Valdez, supervisor of Mears State Park in Pentwater.

Northern Michigan’s summer has been typical all around. Average temperatures and average rainfall equaled average attendance for the state parks in the area.

“The campground is the campground and the numbers stay consistent so the hot weather brings more people from town, more people from the surrounding area that come to the beach,” says Valdez, “With the beach being so accessible to people, we see bigger crowds when it’s hot.”

Heading into September and October the numbers will surely drop due to school going back in session, the weather changing and, of course, a potential government shut down.

“In the past, we have done it both ways. We had one where we did have to remove campers from the park because the government was going to shut down on October 1,” says Valdez, “But then the last time it became a possibility, they decided to call the state parks one of the essential services for the state so even if there is a shut down we don’t have to remove people out of their campsites.”

With four weeks to go, the official decision on state parks this time, hasn’t been madee. But in the past, when the budget deadline came, the campers in parks were told to immediately leave.

“That happened in the past,” says Valdez, “Yeah, we had to put up the barricades and tell people to leave.”

Valdez says when the park is closed, that pertains to campgrounds, buildings and parking lots. People can still walk freely through the area as they tend to do often at Mears.

“We get as much foot traffic and bicycles entering the park as we do people coming in cars,” says Valdez.