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Rates to increase at county-owned campgrounds

News File Photo Campers staying at Alpena-County-owned parks can expect to pay a bit more next year than they did in 2021 to help offset the cost of rising prices and for the county to invest further in campground amenities.

ALPENA — Campers who stay at Alpena County-owned parks can expect to pay a bit more in 2022 than they paid this year.

Despite the sites being near capacity for much of the past camping season, the county increased fees to help offset the cost of rising prices and to invest further into the campgrounds’ amenities.

The county owns three campgrounds: Long Lake Park, Beaver Lake Park, and Sunken Lake Park. The county also owns campsites at the county fairgrounds, but those sites were not affected by the rate hike.

Last camping season, campers paid $25 to stay on a rustic lot with no electricity or water, but it will be a dollar more next year. A regular lot and waterfront campsite with those utilities were also increased by $1 and will cost $31 and $36, respectively.

Commissioner Bob Adrian, who represents the county board on the Alpena County Parks Commission, said rates have stayed the same for the last several years. But now, the rising costs to do business justify the small hike in price, he said.

He said the Parks Commission and county believe the minimal price bump will have a limited impact on campers.

“We wanted to keep the increase reasonable and affordable,” he said. “A bunch of that money will go directly back into the parks for future improvements, so it is an investment, too.”

The county is paying more for fuel, electricity, and employee wages, Adrian said.

The county and taxpayers have invested heavily into the parks over the last several years. Many projects have been funded via the countywide Youth and Recreation property tax, while grants have helped pay for other improvements, including a large project at Long Lake Park which will move the boat ramp early next year.

Adrian said the improvements are already paying dividends, as more people are using the facilities.

“We are seeing the results from the investments we made,” Adrian said. “But we have more work to do.”

Adrian said the county wants to make major improvements to the day-use areas at the parks to make them more functional and fun for visitors who don’t spend the night, especially younger people.

“We’re going to add some grills and some more picnic tables, maybe as early as this spring,” he said. “We also want to add more playground equipment and things for kids to do. We want people who aren’t camping to be able to enjoy the park and the lakes, too, without having to pay to camp.”

All three parks had new bath houses constructed or renovated in recent years, and other improvements seem to have driven up the demand for camping sites at the parks. Popular and creative events, such as Christmas in July at Beaver Lake Park, Mystery Weekend at Long Lake Park, and many other themed weekends also helped draw people in.

Adrian said the 2021 camping season was a banner one, and helped bolster the county’s park fund, which was once severely depleted.

But the rate increase will help prevent exhausting the fund with the renovations.

“It wasn’t that long ago we needed to buy a lawnmower for $1,000 and didn’t know where we would get the money from,” he said. “That isn’t the case anymore, because we are now financially stable.”

Another year of filled campsites is predicted for next year, Adrian said, and he urges people to book their stay soon after Jan. 2. He said weekends are often filled quickly, and it can be hard to find a spot in any of the parks if you put off making a reservation.

The camping facilities are available from May 15 until Oct. 15.

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