ESCANABA - A mild winter, combined with the early arrival of spring, is leading many people to head into the outdoors earlier this year.
Many campgrounds that normally open for the summer camping season around May 15 have opened early, with campers taking advantage of opportunity.
Most state forest campgrounds, such as Little Bay de Noc on the Stonington Peninsula, open for the season May 15. State park campgrounds, like J.W. Wells in Menominee County and Indian Lake in Schoolcraft County, are now open.
Dionna Harris | Daily Press
A mild winter combined with the early arrival of spring is leading campers to head out early this camping season. Several early season campers have already staked out their claims at Pioneer Trail Park. State parks generally open for the season May 15. O.B. Fuller Park will open May 27.
Gary Branz, Delta County parks manager, said Pioneer Trail Park is open for the camping season. O.B. Fuller Park in Bark River is scheduled to open May 27.
"I would expect to see an increase in the number of campers this summer, due in part to fuel prices," said Branz. "Pioneer and O.B. Fuller are centrally located, so people traveling south generally stop in at Pioneer, while those heading north generally stop at Fuller Park."
Branz said when gasoline prices hit record highs during the summer of 2009, most residents stayed close to home and took advantage of what the local campgrounds had to offer.
Another factor effecting campgrounds is the weather.
One such weather event occurred in 2008 when a severe thunderstorm ripped through the area, resulting in several trees being felled in O.B. Fuller Park.
"The trees that were felled by the weather have been cleared away. In addition, there is a new trail that was cleaned up and expanded by Peter Maercklein as part of his Eagle Scout project," said Branz.
Maercklein completed re-routing a footpath in September 2009, just prior to the close of the camping season.
The new footpath in O.B. Fuller Park runs from the boat launch at the mouth of the Bark River into the Bay of Green Bay, to the rear of the shower facility. The path is approximately one mile in length.
A section of the path was relocated due to the continued use of one section creating the potential for extensive damage to the drain field used by the campground's shower facility.
Other improvements, noted Branz, for both county-owned campgrounds is the replacement of several fire-rings.
"Right now, the priority is to replace several of the fire rings in Fuller Park this season," said Branz. "If necessary, we will replace a few at Pioneer."