The Department of Natural Resources will be kicking off summer this weekend with three free activities: fishing, visiting state parks and riding off-road vehicles on state ORV trails.
As part of its long-standing practice, the DNR will waive all fishing license fees Saturday and Sunday, with all other fishing regulations still in effect. Off-road vehicle license and permit fees also will be waived for the weekend, allowing riders to try out the region's many trails. And new this year, every DNR-run facility that would typically require a recreation passport will be free to use on Sunday.
Along with celebrating the start of warmer weather, the second free fishing weekend of the year is meant to encourage people to get into the sport, Northern Lake Huron Fisheries Supervisor Dave Borgeson said.
"We like to encourage anybody who enjoys fishing, if they have somebody they think might enjoy it, we'll have them try it," he said. "We encourage them to take them out ... to expose them to the sport. We think it's a great way for folks to bond and enjoy the outdoors, even if it's just a gateway to other outdoor experiences."
Those looking to ride on one of several ORV trails in Northeast Michigan, including those near Atlanta and Devil's Lake, can do so this weekend without having to buy a license or permit, Harrisville State Park Supervisor Eric Ostrander said. Riders on DNR-owned trails typically have to purchase a permit along with the license they'd buy to ride on road shoulders where local law allows.
Sunday's deal is aimed at bringing people out to try something the cost of a recreation passport might have normally discouraged them from doing, Ostrander said. The state no longer sells day passes to its state parks, and sometimes people aren't sure if they want to spend $11 to get into a park.
It's not just the 102 state parks that are free on Sunday, Ostrander said. Visitors to any DNR-owned land that typically requires a recreation passport for entry can get in free. That includes state-owned public boat launches on inland lakes, forest pathways like Norway Ridge and Chippewa Hills in Alpena County and state forest campgrounds, of which there are several in Northeast Michigan. Camping fees still apply for overnight stays.
Another aim for Sunday is to convince more people to opt in for recreation passports when renewing their vehicle registration, Ostrander said. Those who do get special deals at participating businesses, known as Passport Perks. Many Northeast Michigan businesses have signed up, including several in Alpena. Passports also fund improvements to recreational facilities, along with a grant programs for local government-run parks.
"We try to tell them the benefits about (the passport), and this is a way for them to get out and check the parks out," he said.
For information on where to visit to take advantage of these deals, check out www.michigan.gov/dnr and choose from the activities on the left.