Woman’s 6000-Mile Roadtrip of a Lifetime is Helping Michigan Camping Outreach

by Jennifer Shea

An AmeriCorps volunteer working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources set out on a 6,000-mile road trip to 78 Michigan state forest campgrounds this summer to help the DNR with its camping public outreach efforts.

Paige Lackey and her dog, Willow, traveled across the state on a campaign to better information access for visitors to the state’s forests. They spent five months from spring through summer living in and working out of an RV.

The campaign, dubbed “Project Rustic,” took Lackey to more than half of the state’s 145 state forest campgrounds to gather data. She got General RV to donate an RV to the effort, and the DNR backed the project, which was her idea.

“I called my supervisor and just pitched the idea of personally taking this project into my own hands by traveling around to all the rustic state forest campgrounds, seeing them first-hand and being able to snap photos and talk with the unit managers to gather the most accurate and detailed information,” Lackey told MLive before she embarked on her trip.

Camping Outreach Efforts Will Now Have More Detailed Information

Lackey made notes, wrote down GPS coordinates and took pictures. After all her data-gathering, she plans to convert her GPS data into maps that the DNR can post at campground kiosk to help campers.

The AmeriCorps member says her time on the road was a learning experience. And perhaps her top lesson was that Michigan’s natural resources have a lot to offer.

“I really loved the quietness and the solitude that these campgrounds provide,” Lackey said. “It created a lot of space for just spending time in nature. Our public lands are so beautiful and are entertaining in and of themselves.”

Michigan State Forest Campgrounds Require a Recreation Passport (Unless You’re Walking There)

Michigan’s state forest camping areas are scattered throughout the Upper and northern Lower Peninsulas of the state. They sit alongside rivers and lakes, offering plenty of recreational options, from fishing to boating to paddling. And while rustic, they do boast some amenities. For example, there are carry-in boat launches, trails and areas designated for fishing and hunting. Some even stay open year-round to provide winter outdoors experiences.

If you’re planning to visit a Michigan state forest campground and you want to drive there, you’ll need a Recreation Passport. Perhaps to encourage tourism, the daily rate is actually cheaper for vehicles not registered in Michigan. But they may be harder to come by; a message on the DNR’s website says non-Michigan-registerd passports are not currently available at DNR customer service centers. (Check the link above for more information.)