State Park volunteers needed for stewardship workdays in Southeast Michigan

Michigan recreation officials recently announced the schedule of volunteer stewardship workdays to be held throughout May in Southeast Michigan state parks and recreation areas.

Volunteers are needed to search for and pull invasive, non-native garlic mustard plants in natural areas within state parks and recreation areas. This activity will help protect and restore the unique woodlands in these Southeast Michigan state parks. At the Sterling State Park workday on May 19, volunteers will be planting native prairie seedlings to restore rare lakeplain prairie and Great Lakes marsh ecosystems. Volunteering for these workdays is a great way to Go Get Outdoors, breathe some fresh spring air, and be active.

Dates, times and locations of the workdays are as follows:

Volunteers earning the most hours for removal of garlic mustard and other invasive species in state parks and recreation areas from April through the end of July will receive a free Recreation Passport t-shirt to show their dedication to our natural resources. Shirts are limited and will be awarded to the top 40 volunteers in Southeast Michigan.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants, sturdy closed-toe shoes, and bring gloves and drinking water.

For details about each workday and to obtain maps and directions, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and link to the “Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.” All volunteers are asked to register using the form available on the website or via email. Any questions should be directed to Laurel Malvitz-Draper at 248-359-9057 or malvitzl@michigan.gov.

New mosquito repellant products from the Tiki brand

Summer - and camping - are all about enjoying the great outdoors. But, like death and taxes, there's one little pest that tries to invade our outdoor R&R: the dreaded mosquito.

What's worse, experts and officials who get paid to know these kinds of things are saying that due to a "perfect storm" of conditions" this spring, we should expect a larger than normal crop of mosquitoes this summer.

Fortunately, the Tiki brand of outdoor torches, with "BiteFighter Torch Fuel" are the perfect outdoor ally for us campers. This unique formula of citronella plus cedar oil is designed to specifically repel mosquitoes and provides proven protection when added to any Tiki brand torch.

And, new this year is the BiteFighter DoubleWick Torch system that creates a large, dancing flame that is proven to repel mosquitos when used with BiteFighter Torch Fuel.

"Not only will Tiki Brand torches with Tiki Brand BiteFighter Torch Fuel protect you and your friends and family from mosquitoes, there are several design options that enhance the ambiance and make your campsite an outdoor oasis," said HGTV's Kellie Clements.

She's not kidding. The Tiki torches are awesome.

Obviously, much of this information comes from a press release from the Tiki brand company. But these products work, and the torches provide some pretty cool ambiance. The King Tiki (left) is definitely on my wish list.

VIDEO: RV power surge protection


Yet another informative RV video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101. Just like a water regulator controls the water pressure coming into your RV's water lines, preventing a costly disaster, an electrical surge protector provides similar peace of mind.

As Mark says, the No. 1 electrical problem an RV can experience is the potential power surge coming from the campground power supply. Think of all the sensitive electronic equipment you have in your RV, and then think of what even the smallest power surge could do to them.

In this RV product video Mark demonstrates how the portable Surge Guard protects your RV electrical system from surges and faulty RV campground wiring.

By the way, if you want to learn more about maintaining your RV from Mark Polk, take a look at his e-books. There's a wide selection of topics, all of which provide everything you need to know to fully understand that particular aspect of your RV. Plus, being an e-book, the information is immediately downloaded to your computer after your purchase. (Plus I get a little commission for each e-book sold through my blog.)

National Geographic's Top 10 Family Activities in Ontario

National Geographic.com recently came out with a neat little Top 10 list perfect for us folks in the Great Lakes region - The Top 10 Family Activities in Ontario.

A condensed version of the list follows, but take the time to click over and read it for yourself on National Geographic's website.

1. A Trip to the Cottage
Ontario loves taking a family trip to the cottage, where it's all about campfires, canoe rides and rainy-day board games. Visitors can get in on the action too; rental cottages are widely available. Popular “cottage country” areas include the Kawarthas and Muskoka, both within a couple hours’ drive of Toronto, and the Rideau Lakes, near Ottawa.

2. Toronto Zoo
The Toronto Zoo is the largest in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. Its 460-plus animal species are organized by their region of origin. In addition to the main exhibits, the zoo also offers a special children’s zone with demonstrations, a splash park, and interactive activities for kids.

3. Rideau Canal (Ottawa)
Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is a national historic site and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was built after the War of 1812 as an alternate route between Montreal and Kingston, in case of an American invasion of the St. Lawrence River. Today it’s an urban waterway lined with trees and bike paths—perfect for renting a canoe, pedal boat, or bicycle and cruising through downtown.

4. Canoeing in Algonquin Provincial Park
A canoe ride in Algonquin is quintessential Ontario: an endless expanse of water, rock, and pine trees, with the silence broken only by a loon’s call or the splash of a paddle.

5. Science North and Dynamic Earth (Sudbury)
Sudbury’s twin science centers offer hands-on exhibits covering a broad array of scientific topics, often with a northern flavor. At Science North visitors can learn about bush planes and butterflies, try their hand at measuring emissions and air quality in the region, and visit an IMAX theater and a planetarium. Nearby at Dynamic Earth, the emphasis is on geology: the highlight is an elevator ride deep underground to a simulated mining environment. Some of the exhibits here offer an opportunity to teach kids about reading and thinking critically.

6. Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa)
The Canadian Museum of Nature is a natural history playground in the heart of Ottawa. The permanent exhibits feature everything from skeletal dinosaurs to live tarantulas and cockroaches, and traveling exhibitions also rotate through. Even the museum building itself can be a thrill for kids: It’s castle-like, more than a century old, and rumor has it the place is haunted.

7. OHL Hockey
Experience Canada’s national obsession with the OHL (or Ontario Hockey League), a prominent junior hockey league that grooms many future big league hockey stars. It’s open only to players 16 to 20, and its games tend to be fast-paced and highly skilled. They’re also far more affordable than professional NHL games, where the ticket prices rapidly rise into triple digits.

8. Agawa Canyon Tour Train (Sault Ste. Marie)
The Algoma Central Railway runs this popular one-day scenic train ride out of Sault Ste. Marie, the northern Ontario city better known as the Soo. The train runs north through a granite wilderness before plunging into the Agawa Canyon. At the bottom, visitors take a 90-minute break; try one of the handful of hiking trails to a waterfall or scenic lookout, or settle down for a picnic.

9. Black Creek Pioneer Village (Toronto) 
Black Creek is a classic pioneer village attraction, complete with historic buildings, demonstrations of old-time skills and chores, hands-on activities for kids, and interpreters in period dress. And while it’s largely kid-focused, the village also has a perk for adults: there’s a microbrewery on-site.

10. Ontario Place (Toronto) 
Ontario Place is an interesting contradiction: a hedonistic theme park run by, of all things, a government agency. The result is a fun hybrid, with carnival standbys like bumper boats and mini-golf on offer alongside large-scale thrill rides, a giant water park, and—here’s where the contrast kicks in—an eco-learning center and an IMAX theater that screens regular nature documentaries.

Park & Read program gives library customers a free pass into Michigan state parks, museums and historic sites

Need a break? Consider a mini-vacation spent outdoors amid the natural beauty of Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas or exploring the stories and nostalgia of the museums and historic sites within the Michigan Historical Museum system – compliments of the Library of Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Library of Michigan have teamed up once again to offer their popular Park & Read program at more than 400 participating libraries across the state. The program, now in its fourth year, offers library card-holders the option of checking out a one-day pass that waives the Recreation Passport entry fee into any of Michigan’s 101 state parks and recreation areas.

The one-day pass (a $10 savings) also provides free, one-time access to any of the more than 500 events scheduled to take place within the state parks throughout the summer. Passes are valid for seven days from checkout and are good for day use only. Park & Read runs now through Oct. 1, 2012.

Many participating parks even offer hammocks for loan. Set up under a shady tree and read, snooze or watch the clouds drift by.

“This year, even dark clouds won’t spoil a Park & Read day,” said Maia Stephens, DNR recreation programmer.

“The Park & Read pass is also valid at any of the 11 museums or historic sites within the Michigan Historical Museum system,” said Stephens. “These engaging places focus on themes in Michigan history, so why not learn about Michigan’s fascinating history through your local library and then live it by visiting one of our great museums or historic sites?”

For more information on the program and a complete list of participating libraries, hammock availability and park events taking place throughout the state, visit www.michigan.gov/stateparks.

Illinois' Earth Day in the Parks promotes natural resources stewardship for students


Sixth annual event will be held across the state on several dates in April and May

SPRINGFIELD, IL – More than 875 students will visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) state parks in April and May for the sixth annual Earth Day in the Parks event. Earth Day in the Parks is an initiative of the IDNR to introduce students to environmental stewardship.

“Students participating in Earth Day in the Parks will have an opportunity to perform meaningful natural resources stewardship activities, including planting trees, planting native wildflowers, developing amphibian breeding pools, building and installing fish attractors and a number of other activities,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller.

Sponsored by the IDNR Office of Strategic Services and Office of Land Management, Earth Day in the Parks offers students the opportunity to get outdoors and work in nature. Their hands-on experiences will lead them to develop a sense of ownership of the natural resources in the state while also increasing available wildlife habitat. Students and teachers are encouraged to return to the park to study the effects of their work.

“We believe that participating schools realize that this is more than just a field trip. This is an investment in the future generation of conservationists,” said Director Miller. “We hope that these students will continue to visit the parks, not only to check on the success of their projects, but perhaps to volunteer and develop a personal connection to a natural place.”

School groups were selected by random drawings from an application process conducted earlier this year. Grants from the Illinois Conservation Foundation and the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund help to support the events.

VIDEO: Walnut Grove Campground in Lower Huron Metropark, Belleville, MI


Metro Detroit campers looking no longer have to drive four hours to enjoy that “Up North” experience. Instead, they can set up camp at the brand new Walnut Grove Campground in Lower Huron Metropark.

Walnut Grove features 27 rustic campsites in a limited access portion of the Tulip Tree Picnic Area, and promises to be a popular option for those looking for a nearby campground.

“We see this as an opportunity for people not to have to drive 250 miles to get that ‘Up North’ camping experience,” said Jeff Schuman, park operartions manager for Huron-Clinton Metroparks. “Instead, they can get that right here in their own backyard.”

The campground features rustic camping, meaning water, electricity or sewer hookups are not available. However, drinking water and modern restrooms are located within the campground, and shower facilities are available mornings at the Metropark’s Turtle Cove Aquatic Center May 26 through Labor Day.

Officials said should the campground prove popular and the demand warrants it, the potential to add hookup services does exist.

“There’s been talk of adding a campground to the Metroparks for years, at least since the mid 1980s. The current board of commissioners decided the time was right to develop one now,” said Jim Pershing, southern district park manager for Huron-Clinton Metroparks. “In fact, Walnut Grove is the first Metroparks campground open to the public that’s not group camping.”

Group camping, available at several of the system’s 13 parks, is most often used by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and youth groups.

Pershing said those who picnic and host family reunions at Lower Huron Metropark will especially find the campground appealing. Out-of-town relatives can stay in the campground, and campers will have an early morning head start on securing one of the always-in-demand picnic spots.

Another of the campground’s appeal is the many amenities offered by Lower Huron Metropark, Schuman added.

Campers are encouraged to bring walking shoes, bikes and/or inline skates to use the paved hike-bike trail, which connects Lower Huron to Willow and Oakwoods Metroparks. Fishing along the Huron River is easy to access at three fishing decks located within the park, as well as at the camp’s river shoreline. Basketball courts, a baseball diamond and tennis courts are also in the park, as well as a Par-3 golf course, which can be played for just $6 per person on the weekends, or $5 per person weekdays.

In addition, a picnic shelter located inside the campground boundaries is available exclusively for campers. Nature education programs on select weekends also will take place at that shelter.

Schuman also pointed out that campers need not worry about flooding. The campsites were carefully chosen after last year’s record-rain levels flooded a small portion of the park.

Each campsite features a crushed limestone pad, picnic table and fire ring. Tents, campers and motorhomes are allowed; two tents or one RV per site. Campsites can be reserved for a $20 daily fee, which does not include park entry ($5 daily or $25 annual). Reservations with a full non-refundable payment is recommended.

For more information, contact Lower Huron Metropark at 734-697-9181 or visit www.metroparks.com.

VIDEO: RV How-To Videos


Mark Polk of RV Education 101 announces a free RV How-To Video website at www.rv101.tv, plus other helpful items like his popular e-newsletter.

Mark and his wife Dawn (with cameos from their son Tyler) are my favorite RV experts. They have a wide range of products (DVDs and online training, among other things) that will help any RV owner better understand how their RV performs. But my favorite thing they've done is the 17-episode series in which Mark and Tyler renovated an old Yellowstone camper. If you get a chance, bookmark this post in which I link to all 17 episodes. Each is about 30 minutes long and it's really enjoyable.

By the way, if you want to learn more about maintaining your RV from Mark Polk, take a look at his e-books. There's a wide selection of topics, all of which provide everything you need to know to fully understand that particular aspect of your RV. Plus, being an e-book, the information is immediately downloaded to your computer after your purchase. (Plus I get a little commission for each e-book sold through my blog.)

SONG: Wisconsin DNR sings about wildfire prevention

Author's Note: Please take the time to listen to this song. Not because of the message it delivers - wildfires are bad - but because it is one of the funniest things I've heard in the past few hours. Think of West Side Story meets Smokey the Bear, and you're pretty close. By the way, this little video is my own creation. I just added what I thought were appropriate images to the "Wildfire Dangers" song.

Spring wildfire season is underway in Wisconsin. Recent warm and windy days have contributed to roughly 370 wildfires burning more than 900 acres throughout Wisconsin this year alone. Department of Natural Resources fire officials urge residents and visitors to use extreme caution before engaging in any outdoor activities with the potential for wildfire.

Every spring, the DNR develops various fire prevention outreach tools in hopes of preventing these unwanted, human-caused wildfires.

For the most up-to-date fire danger conditions and other fire safe information, visit the DNR website and search keyword "fire" to find the latest information on fire danger and burning restrictions.

'Ultimate Camp Cooking' serves up laughs, recipes





Pat Mac (left) and Mile Faverman
Recently I had the pleasure of reading a copy of Ultimate Camp Cooking by comedians/camp chefs Mike Faverman and Pat Mac. Many of you might already heard of or even seen these guys - they're regulars on the RV show circuit. Their Ultimate Camp Cooking live shows are equal parts comedy and camp cooking, and often people will follow them from show to show.

Their newest cookbook, Ultimate Camp Cooking is also equal parts comedy and delicious recipes ready for your next camping adventure. Indeed, armed with these recipes, no longer does “roughing it” have to mean sacrificing good food.

In Ultimate Camp Cooking (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $14.99, February 2011), Mike and Pat teach us that gourmet-quality dishes can be made at any campsite using limited equipment, basic cooking techniques, and a few flavorful ingredients. Ultimate Camp Cooking contains more than 80 fast, easy, and delicious recipes, all with easy cleanup, and features full-color photographs for most dishes. There;s many that I plan on trying the next time we go camping.

This portable, durable cookbook was designed with campers, travelers, and outdoor food enthusiasts in mind. Pat and Mike have also sprinkled in some of their most hilarious stories - be sure to read the one about the elderly man bringing one of their shows to a screeching halt - along with some very handy tips and tricks, including:
  • How to plan a camp menu
  • Helpful hints for packing the cooler
  • Tips for keeping the camp kitchen clean
  • Advice for avoiding—and dealing—with bears 

Along with sending me a copy of their book, Mike and Pat also graciously answered a few questions of mine through email.

Italian Spiral Pasta
Q: What's the best advice you could give to camp cookers?
A: Prep as much food at home before you leave town, making your trip as easy as possible. Cut, marinade and pre cook if possible leaving more time to visit with friends and family unless you don't like your family then disregard this step.

Q: What are some of the common mistakes camp cookers typically make?
A: Timing all their food to be finished at the same time and people are eating in shifts. Don't be afraid to cover food in tin foil while waiting for the main course to finish. Not planning your meals with your fellow campers and you end up with an odd balance of food dishes in the end, tacos and hash browns don't go together unless your a truck driver. Make a complete list of ALL your ingredients you will need for your trip so you don't find yourself walking from camp to camp asking if anyone has truffle oil. When using your Dutch oven make sure you place your coals around the edge of the lid and the bottom of the oven so you don't burn your recipe.

Q: Tell us something about Mike/Pat that hecklers can use mercilessly.
A: Seeing that Mike and Pat are well seasoned in the art of standup comedy they make it a habit of eating hecklers for breakfast, lunch and dinner and spitting them out. The one thing they like to hear being yelled out is after the show is over, "Is there a limit on how many books I can buy?" they love that one!

Q: What's the worst recipe you've ever tried?
A: Blueberry, Reese's Peanut Butter cake, it didn't taste bad in fact it was really good but it looked like an accident in a diaper.

Q: Describe your perfect camping experience.
A: Cool mornings, warm days with friends who appreciate good food at the lake in McCall Idaho. Dutch ovens cooking all day and the smell carrying across the camp ground creating a buzz with the neighbors.

Mexican and BBQ  Pizzas
So, instead of hot dogs and granola bars, consider Dutch Oven Benedict, Blue Cheese Meatballs, and S’more Pies. Ultimate Camp Cooking has those and many other amazing and satisfying meals - all cooked campside with little fuss but a whole lot of flavor.

A stand-up comedian for more than 10 years, Mike Faverman has been a staple at the most famous comedy club in the world, the Comedy Store. After 15 years of working for Albertsons, Pat Mac transitioned his skill of making fun of his boss and customers by hitting the road to pursue comedy full time. Mike and Pat currently tour the United States together with Ultimate Camp Cooking, a live-demonstration and DVD cooking series sponsored by five multimillion dollar corporations. Mike lives in Los Angeles, CA, and Pat hails from Boise, ID.

For more information, visit www.ultimatecampcooking.com.

New MI DNR initiative aims to resolve encroachment cases on public land

Author's Note: I can imagine there's many, many people who might be interested in this announcement by the Michigan DNR. Conflicts between private landowners and the DNR over property rights have existed for decades. This Encroachment Resolution Initiative certainly won't be a solution for many cases, but I would expect it could be a route to resolution for quite a few.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources earlier this month announced the Encroachment Resolution Initiative (ERI), an effort geared at resolving the hundreds of cases of encroachment – or trespass – occurring on public land throughout Michigan.

Through this initiative, the DNR will work with property owners who are trespassing by having either a permanent structure or historical encroachment on public land. Property owners with known encroachments on public land will be notified by letter from the DNR that they are eligible to resolve their case without penalty through the ERI. Property owners adjacent to public land who are not sure whether they are encroaching can use tools on the DNR website (www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment) to determine if they are, in fact, trespassing on state-managed land.

“I asked our staff to come up with a creative, customer-focused way of resolving some of our most difficult encroachment situations,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes.

“The Encroachment Resolution Initiative reaches out to residents with a real, workable solution,” said Stokes. “It will help us appropriately document public land ownership and resolve those trespass cases that tie up substantial staff time and resources and make land-management issues more challenging for the state.”

Under the ERI, property owners who are encroaching on public land managed by the DNR can (starting May 1, 2012) apply to have their cases resolved. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 31, 2012. During this “amnesty” period, DNR staff will work with property owners to properly document ownership.

If a property owner can show that his or her encroachment was in place prior to March 1, 1973 (in keeping with a 1988 amendment of the Revised Judicature Act), the property will be transferred to the property owner after a new property survey is completed and new boundaries are established. Structural encroachments that have occurred after March 1, 1973 will be resolved through land sales. The DNR will streamline its land sale process for encroachment cases being resolved through the ERI.

Individuals with non-structural encroachments (such as fences, gardens, sheds or other non-permanent structures) occurring on public land after March 1, 1973, will need to remove the items.

By providing a streamlined and legal process to resolve their trespass without penalty, the Encroachment Resolution Initiative is intended as an incentive program for property owners encroaching on public land. Throughout the duration of the ERI, the DNR will not seek penalties or take escalated enforcement action for any encroachments that are resolved by Dec. 31, 2012.

After the application period closes on Dec. 31, 2012, any existing or new cases of encroachment that were not brought forward will be dealt with through DNR encroachment and enforcement procedures.

“We sincerely hope that anyone currently encroaching on public land will take advantage of this opportunity to resolve trespass situations,” said DNR Director Stokes. “Public land is intended to be just that – land available for the use and enjoyment of the public. Such encroachments reduce everyone’s ability to enjoy the state’s natural resources that should be freely accessible to residents and visitors alike.”

Individuals with questions about the ERI should contact Lori Burford, the DNR’s encroachment specialist, at 989-275-5151, ext. 2100 or via email at burfordl@michigan.gov.

For more information on the ERI, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment.

Bluffton/Fort Wayne South KOA offering free night of camping

9th Annual Event Also Fundraising for KOA Care Camps for Children With Cancer 

The Bluffton/Fort Wayne South KOA Campground, located at 1625 W Lancaster St in Bluffton, is offering a free night of camping on Saturday, May 12 to all campers who stay at the campground as paying guests on Friday, May 11 as part of KOA’s 9th Annual Come Kamp & Care With Us Weekend.

Thousands of North American camping families will be headed to their favorite Kampgrounds of America locations for this very special weekend, the official start of the 2012 summer camping season.

Last year, more than 25,000 camping families stayed at nearly 400 participating KOA campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada. The event, created in 2004, provides a free night of camping on Saturday, May 12, to all campers staying as paying guests on Friday, May 11.

KOA campgrounds have several fun events planned that are designed to both entertain campers, and help raise funds to support KOA Care Camps, a system of 44 specialized summer camps around North America that provide a true summer camp experience for children with cancer and their siblings. Last year, more than $370,000 was raised during the Come Kamp & Care With Us event to benefit KOA Care Camps.

“This event has become the official start to the summer camping season for thousands of camping families in North America,” said KOA CEO Jim Rogers. “It is a wonderful way to reconnect with friends and family, give camping a try, or just pull your RV out to your local KOA and get it ready for a fun summer camping season. At the same time, you get to help raise funds to send some very deserving children to a much needed summer camp.”

Campers can to go www.KOA.com to see a list of participating campgrounds and make their reservations. Some campgrounds will be offering their KOA Cabins and Deluxe Cabins for the event, so campers are encouraged not to wait to make their reservations.

KOA is also celebrating its 50th birthday in 2012. As part of that anniversary, campers can enter to win a free Keystone Vantage recreational vehicle. Go to www.KOAKompass.com to enter today.

Other official sponsors of KOA Care Camps for children with cancer include:
  • Allstate RV Roadhelp, the only roadside assistance plan endorsed by KOA. For a free quote for all of your RV insurance needs, call 800-214-5135.
  • Cabela’s, the world’s foremost outfitter. Cabela’s invites all outdoor enthusiasts to its own May event, Let’s Go Camping, May 1-13 at Cabela’s store locations across North America. Go to www.cabelas.com for more information. 
Kampgrounds of America, founded on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Montana in 1962, is now the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds. KOA has 485 locations in the United States and Canada.

VIDEO: Eco-friendly RV holding tank treatments


Another video from my favorite RV expert, Mark Polk with RV Education 101. Watch as he demonstrates the complete line of RV tank treatments by Valterra Products.

This environmentally friendly line of RV holding tank treatments help keep your RV wastewater tanks clean and odor free. Eco Force tank treatments come available in liquid and dry formulas and in a variety of container sizes to meet every RV consumers personal needs.

By the way, if you want to learn more about maintaining your RV from Mark Polk, take a look at his e-books. There's a wide selection of topics, all of which provide everything you need to know to fully understand that particular aspect of your RV. Plus, being an e-book, the information is immediately downloaded to your computer after your purchase. (Plus I get a little commission for each e-book sold through my blog.)

IDNR Urges Caution to Prevent Wildfires

Author's note: This now makes three releases from three different states' Department of Natural Resources on the same topic of the dangers of wildfires. Some might say one would suffice, but in my opinion this message cannot be repeated often enough.

Unusually warm, dry spring weather could contribute to fire danger

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is reminding Illinoisans and visitors to the state to take precautions to prevent wildfires – especially with the unusually warm and dry weather in the state this spring.

“Our IDNR staff and local fire agencies have already been busy this spring dealing with wildfires at state sites. We’re encouraging visitors to our state parks, state forests, other state sites and federal and local forest and park land – as well as private landowners – to be extra vigilant this spring in preventing fires because of the unseasonable weather that could contribute to even more fires in the coming weeks,” said IDNR Forest Protection Program Manager Tom Wilson.

“We encourage our Illinois residents to become our eyes and ears while enjoying the beauty of our state parks and other forest preserves during warm weather. By becoming more vigilant and educated on wildfire safety, serious incidents of fires on state sites can be prevented,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis.

Fires in March burned nearly 400 acres at Sand Ridge State Forest in Mason County and dozens of acres of park land at Lincoln Trail State Park in Clark County. Last November, nearly 1,500 acres of heavily wooded hunting ground burned in a wildfire at Pere Marquette State Park in Jersey County.

Among wildfire prevention/safety measures suggested by the IDNR Division of Forest Resources:
  • Avoid outdoor burning when winds are above five (5) miles per hour and/or when the relative humidity is below 40 percent; 
  • Burn in protected areas only with no combustible materials within 10 feet around for small fires and 50 feet for larger fires; 
  • Prior to burning, check the National Weather Service's fire weather forecast for expected conditions; 
  • Avoid welding and grinding in areas with dry vegetation, and make sure that machinery is in good working order (bearings greased, avoid dragging chains and parts); 
  • For vehicles, especially those with catalytic convertors, avoid parking in areas with tall vegetation; 
  • Campfires should be small, in protected areas, and burned during night time hours within fire grates or fire rings; 
  • Be careful to safely dispose of lit cigarettes, cigars, or other smoking material;
  • Have a bucket of water and shovel on hand and be sure to thoroughly drown out the fire prior to leaving the area.

Anyone spotting a wildfire should report it to the nearest fire department, law enforcement office, IDNR office or U.S. Forest Service ranger station.

Michigan DNR salutes state park volunteers’ efforts

During any given year thousands of volunteer hours go into helping strengthen and preserve Michigan’s state park system. In conjunction with National Volunteer Week, April 15-21, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources wishes to salute its volunteers and extend its appreciation to the many people who willingly offer their time, talents, and energy to ensure Michigan’s state parks remain the special places where visitors have the maximum opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.

“We want all our volunteers, whether they be children or adults, businesses or community organizations, to know that by choosing to make a difference, their contributions are helping improve the quality of our parks, our programs, and the environment we all live in,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.

The DNR has several programs through which Michigan outdoor enthusiasts of all ages have donated time, talent, and financial support. The Friends of the Parks’ groups are nonprofit associations that help with fundraising efforts, recruit volunteers, lead restoration projects, and provide educational programs for the public. In 2011, Michigan’s state parks’ Friends groups donated over 30,000 service hours and nearly $1 million in funds for park improvements.

Hosts in both the modern and rustic campgrounds spent over 60,000 hours in 2011 greeting and organizing events for campers. Eight Adopt-a-Park groups donated some 200 hours working on projects involving spring clean-ups, environmental activities, accessibility projects, special events, park maintenance and development and public information and training. Scouts volunteer hundreds of hours annually while earning their Conservation Stewardship badges and working in the parks.

“Volunteers offer invaluable assistance in helping preserve our environment and ensuring Michigan’s woods and waters remain the beautiful, natural retreats they are intended to be,” Olson said. “Our stewardship volunteer groups routinely do battle with invasive plant species during scheduled weekly work days, and volunteers on state land picked up approximately 80,000 tires in one year, which when laid end to end, would cross the Mackinac Bridge five times.”

As more people continue to discover the value of the state parks through the Recreation Passport, the parks are experiencing a surge in usage. Currently less than 50 percent of Michigan state parks have active Friends of the Park groups. More volunteers are needed. To learn more about volunteering in Michigan state parks, visit www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers.

'Introduction to Healthy Outdoor Cooking' at MI's Maybury State Park

Maybury State Park--Rec 101: Intro to Healthy Outdoor Cooking
Location: Maybury State Park 
Date: April 20, 2012 
Time: 6:30 p.m. 

There's more to outdoor cooking than hot dogs and s'mores. Find out how to incorporate exciting, tasty, healthy cooking methods into your picnic and camping meals. Instruction will also be given in how to start the perfect campfire and use a campstove. Program will be demonstrated over a fireplace, campfire ring, and portable campstove. Presented by Chef Dawn Bause, accomplished gourmet chef and recipient of the 2010 Hometown Health Hero award for her efforts in promoting healthy cooking in the state of Michigan. This is a free event. For more information about this event, please call the park at 248-349-8390.

The Recreation Passport is your $10 ticket to Michigan's state parks and outdoor adventures! Check "YES" when you renew your license plate. Where can $10 take you? www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.

Blue Ribbon Panel on State Parks to meet Monday at Tahquamenon Falls State Park

The Michigan Blue Ribbon Panel on State Parks and Outdoor Recreation will meet Monday, April 16 at the Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise, Michigan from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Michigan has more than 100 state parks and recreation areas, used by more than 25 million visitors annually. Governor Snyder established the 16-member panel through Executive Order 2011-10, with the purpose of reviewing state parks and recreation areas and exploring innovative models that will help these assets better serve current and new generations of Michiganders.

The panel will make recommendations to the Governor by the end of September, 2012. The Panel has been meeting monthly since November 2011 at locations throughout the state. At April’s meeting, the group will begin to formulate recommendations in four areas of focus:
  • Protection of natural, cultural, and recreational resources
  • Provision of social goods and values 
  • Advancement of place driven economic development 
  • Structure and models for service delivery

In addition, the panel will hear from Tahquamenon Falls Park Supervisor, Craig Krepps, about the park and some of its management issues, as well as a report-out on recent meetings with stakeholder groups. The agenda includes time for comments from the public. Public input and feedback can also be provided through the Blue Ribbon Panel’s website: (https://janus.pscinc.com/ParkandRecPanel/index.html). The full agenda for the April 16 meeting is also available on the website under the “calendar” section.

For more information about the Blue Ribbon Panel please visit https://janus.pscinc.com/ParkandRecPanel/.

April is ‘Go Camping Month’ at Ohio State Parks

Middle Bass Island State Park (OH)
Author's Note: As if you didn't need enough reason to get outside and go camping - it was a long winter after all - Ohio is sweetening the pot with a great discount for camping at its state parks the month of April. Our favorite Ohio State Park is Maumee Bay State Park, mainly because it's very close to where we live and the campsites are large and private. We have stayed at a number of other Ohio State Parks and have found them to range from perfectly fine to wonderful. 

Campers save 25 percent on camping fees and getaway rentals

COLUMBUS, OH – April has been designated as “Go Camping Month” at Ohio State Parks, and to celebrate, the state park campgrounds are offering a special 25 percent discount.

The 25 percent discount applies to regular camping fees in any of Ohio State Parks’ 55 family campgrounds or 16 horseman’s camps. The 25 percent discount also applies to getaway rentals, including Rent-a-Camp, Rent-a-RV, yurt, tepee, camper cabin and cedar cabin units offered at 38 state parks.

The camping and getaway rental discount, available now through April 30, is offered on overnight stays, and cannot be combined with other discounts.

“April is a good time to get a great campsite at our most popular campgrounds that fill up quickly in the summer,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Deputy Director Glen Cobb. “The parks are ready to welcome guests, and many are offering guided wildflower hikes and birding programs on the weekends for spring visitors.”

Campsites and getaway rentals can be reserved up to six months in advance by calling 866-OHIOPARKS (866-644-6727), or online at www.ohiostateparks.org. Reservations are encouraged, but not required. Each campground offers a limited number of walk-in only sites, and campers may choose any unoccupied campsite that has not been reserved during their stay.

In addition to the discount, April campers and getaway rental guests can also earn points on their Ohio State Parks rewards card, which can be redeemed later for free overnight stays when enough points are accumulated. The rewards card is available free of charge by calling the state parks’ reservation number, 866-OHIOPARKS (866-644-6727), by signing up on www.ohiostateparks.org, or in person at Ohio State Park business offices during normal business hours.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.com.

VIDEO: Pure Michigan goes to Mackinac Island



Here's the Mackinac Island version of the famous Pure Michigan videos. Enjoy!

Visit Mackinac Island and experience the splendor of an island getaway. Where the sun can't wait to wake up and adventure awaits around every corner, nestled in the deep blue waters of Lake Huron. Visit http://www.michigan.org/Partners/Mackinac-Island/Default.aspx?link=Utube to learn more about Mackinac Island and Pure Michigan.

Enjoy webcams from Yellowstone National Park

A few years back, my in-laws took a trip out west. Among their stops was Yellowstone National Park, where they enjoyed the Old Faithful Geyser blowing its top, so to speak. 

What was neat for us was we were able to watch it with them. But we weren't there with them in person. Instead, we were watching on the Old Faithful Geyser livestream video. While on the phone with them, we directed them to move to their left enough so that we could see them in the livestream video, too, with Old Faithful Geyser in the background. It was pretty cool! (We also convinced my in-laws to flap their arms like a chicken, but that's a whole other story.)

The Old Faithful Geyser livestream video is the most popular, but Yellowstone National Park also has a handful of other webcams so you can virtually enjoy other parts of the park, too, including Mammoth Hot Springs, Mount Washburn, and Old Faithful Geyser and the Upper Geyser Basin.

VIDEO: RV water regulators; don't hook up without it!


We have a water regulator on our RV and would never hook up to the campground water supply without it. The damage that would be caused if high pressure water is sent through your RV water lines would be unthinkable! Our water regulator is used in conjunction with an inline water filter - also a must every time you connect to a campground water supply.

Here's a nice video from Mark Polk of RV Education 101 who further explains the importance of water regulators.

By the way, if you want to learn more about maintaining your RV from Mark Polk, take a look at his e-books. There's a wide selection of topics, all of which provide everything you need to know to fully understand that particular aspect of your RV. Plus, being an e-book, the information is immediately downloaded to your computer after your purchase. (Plus I get a little commission for each e-book sold through my blog.)

Lake Erie sport fishing outlook is positive

Nice haul of walleye! (Photo courtesy of www.lakelandcharters.com)
COLUMBUS, OH – Lake Erie anglers should enjoy a diversity of fishing opportunities in 2012, according to biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

“When you consider the mix of species and sizes that are seasonally available to Ohio anglers, we are optimistic about the fishing prospects this year,” said Roger Knight, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the Division of Wildlife. “Weather and water conditions are always wild cards in Lake Erie, but anglers have excellent seasonal opportunities to catch walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, white bass and steelhead.”

Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch fisheries are managed through an interagency quota system that involves Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction regulates their catches to comply with their agency’s quotas and minimize the risk of over-fishing these species. Quotas for the upcoming fishing season are determined through consensus agreement by these jurisdictions through the Lake Erie Committee (LEC) of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which were recently announced for 2012.

Ohio’s walleye and yellow perch daily bag limits were set after the March 23 LEC quota announcement, and will go into effect May 1. As a result of the 2012 quota allocation, the walleye daily bag limit will be six fish from May 1, 2012 to Feb. 28, 2013, and four fish from March 1, 2013, to April 30, 2013. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect during the entire season. The daily bag limit for walleye remains four fish per person during April 2012.

As a result of the 2012 quota allocation, the yellow perch daily bag limit will be 30 perch per angler in all Ohio waters from May 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013. There is no minimum size limit on yellow perch. Lake Erie anglers can find walleye and yellow perch bag limit information at ODNR offices, in special publications at bait and tackle shops and on the website at wildohio.com.

Lake Erie anglers have great access to fishing in the Western and Central basins due to the numerous public boat ramps, private marinas and shoreline access areas. They also benefit from having the largest charter boat industry in the Great Lakes.

Walleye 
Ohio walleye anglers will catch fish mostly from the 2010, 2007 and 2003 hatches, with some contributions from the 2001, 2005 and 1999 hatches. Walleye from the 2010 hatch showed exceptional growth based on 2011 fall surveys, and many individuals will be near or over the 15 inches minimum size limit during the 2012 fishing season. Walleye from the moderate 2007 hatch will range from 17-25 inches long and will complement the larger 22 to 30-inch fish from the strong 2003 hatch as the major contributors to the Ohio catch. Fish from the fair 2005 hatch should be in the 19 to 27-inch range. Large walleye from strong hatches in the mid-1990s still persist in the population, providing “Fish Ohio” award (greater than 28 inches) opportunities.

Yellow Perch 
Perch anglers should encounter fish ranging from 7 to 13-inches from the 2008 through 2005 hatches in this year’s fishery, with the 2007 year class being the most abundant. Fish from the large 2003 year class are still present and will provide some of this year’s trophy opportunities. Lake wide, yellow perch numbers should be similar to levels observed in 2011 in the Western and Central basins.

Smallmouth Bass 
Smallmouth bass fishing in 2011 is expected to be fair. Although bass abundance remains below desired levels, those caught should be of excellent size (14 to 22 inches, weighing two to six pounds). Smallmouth bass can live up to 17 years, with year classes from the mid to late 1990’s still providing trophy opportunities. Bass fishing is best in areas with good bottom structure, which is available across much of the entire Ohio area near shore. A closed season remains in effect from May 1 through June 29, during which all black bass (smallmouth and largemouth) must be immediately released. Beginning June 30, the daily bag limit for bass will be five fish, with a 14-inch minimum length limit.

Steelhead 
Steelhead anglers should enjoy another year of great fishing in Ohio’s Lake Erie open waters and in tributaries throughout the fall, winter and spring months. Peak summer steelhead action on Lake Erie can be found offshore from June through August between Vermilion and Conneaut, with catches measuring 17 to 29 inches. Most Lake Erie anglers troll for steelhead in deep waters using spoons with dipsy divers or downriggers until fish move close to shore in the fall. The daily bag limit remains at five fish per person from May 16 to Aug. 31, and two fish per angler between Sept. 1 and May 15, with a 12-inch minimum size limit throughout the year.

White Bass 
White bass will continue to provide excellent seasonal fishing opportunities in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and in the open lake. The catch will be dominated by fish from the 2007 year class, with 2009, 2006 and 2005 also contributing. Fish from 2003 will also be caught and could be as large as 16 inches. Anglers should focus on major Western Basin tributaries during May and June and near shore areas of the open lake during summer months. There is no daily bag or size limit on white bass.

Other Species 
Anglers are also advised of numerous fishing opportunities in the bays and harbors on the Ohio shoreline. These inlets offer excellent fishing for panfish including crappie and bluegill, as well as largemouth bass. In early spring, anglers may also catch an occasional northern pike or muskellunge in vegetated areas.

Anglers are reminded that fishing conditions on Lake Erie can change hourly and adjustments are often necessary to improve success. Anglers should take into account factors such as water temperature, cloud cover, water clarity, boat traffic, wave action, structure, currents and the amount of baitfish in the area. Anglers are also reminded to carefully monitor Lake Erie weather and to seek safe harbor before storms approach.

During the season, updated Lake Erie fishing reports are available online at wildohio.com and by calling 888-HOOKFISH. Division of Wildlife staff members are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at our research station facilities at Fairport Harbor by calling 440-352-4199 for Central Basin information and at Sandusky by calling 419-625-8062 for Western Basin information. For additional information on lodging, charter boat services and local launch ramps, contact one of the following lakeshore visitors’ bureaus:
  • Ashtabula County Convention & Visitors Bureau - 800-337-6746
  • Lake County Visitors Bureau - 800-368-5253
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland - 800-321-1001
  • Visit Lorain County - 800-334-1673
  • Erie County Visitors Bureau - 800-255-3743
  • Sandusky County Visitors Bureau - 800-255-8070
  • Ottawa County Visitors Bureau - 800-441-1271
  • Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau - 800-243-4667
  • Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism - 800-BUCKEYE

Information on the Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie research and management programs, fisheries resources, open lake and steelhead fishing reports, as well as maps and links to other Lake Erie web resources are available at wildohio.com. Be sure to choose the “Fishing” icon from the Division’s home page, and then select “Lake Erie Fishing” from the list at the bottom of that page.

Peregrine Falcons begin nesting season in Ohio

Follow the season's progress at wildohio.com 

COLUMBUS, OH - The 2012 peregrine falcon nesting season is under way in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

There are peregrine pairs at 25 to 38 sites and eggs are being incubated at eight sites in the state—Cleveland (three sites), Boston, Bowling Green, Aberdeen, Cleves and Dayton. By April, most of Ohio's adult breeding peregrine falcons will have paired with a mate and selected a nesting site.

Internet users can follow the progress of these and other peregrine nests at the Division of Wildlife's peregrine falcon web page at wildohio.com. As the nesting season progresses, key events such as egg laying, hatching and fledging will be noted on the website for each nest.

Because of successful restoration activities in Ohio and across the nation, the peregrine falcon was removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999, and in Ohio it was down-listed from endangered to state-threatened in 2008.

Along with several other Midwestern states, Ohio began reintroducing the birds in 1989. Several pairs were released in Ohio’s major cities between 1989 and 1992. Last year, Ohio had 39 territorial pairs of peregrine falcons of which 32 were nesting pairs and were estimated to have successfully hatched and fledged 67 young.

Federal funds for the peregrine falcon project and other wildlife diversity efforts of the Division of Wildlife are provided through the State Wildlife Grant Program, which targets species with the greatest conservation need.
The division's peregrine falcon management program has been supported by the sale of cardinal license plates, the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp and contributions to the state’s Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species
Check-off Fund. Taxpayers may donate directly or designate all or part of their state income tax refunds to the effort by checking the box on line 25b or 25c of the 2011 Ohio Income Tax Form or line 18b or 18c on the Ohio1040 EZ form. Individuals wanting to donate can do so online at wildohio.com.

New RV Product: Generac iX Series of portable generators

Generac, one of the leading retailers of Home Backup Generators as well as factory-installed generators found on many RVs, has introduced a lineup of portable generators.

Called Generac’s iX Series, the generators use inverter technology to take the raw power produced by the generator and passes it through a special electronic microprocessor to provide clean and stable power, safe for computers and other sensitive electronic devices. Designed for life on the road, its durable, lightweight, compact design with built-in handle offers portable power for camping, tailgating, and recreational use.
  • Lightweight & Compact Up to 40% lighter than a standard generator of equal watts. 
  • Built-in-handle - move with minimal effort.
  • Super Quiet & Campground Friendly Full enclosure drastically reduces noise
  • FlexPower for Operation Mode Options High mode- for large loads or battery charging Eco Mode - to save fuel and reduce noise even more
  • Electronic Overload Protection Circuit breaker protected
  • At-a-glance Status Lights LED lights on the control panel indicate system status
  • Engine Protection Low-oil shutdown detects low oil level and shuts the engine down to prevent potential engine damage
The Generac iX Series lineup includes:
  • iX 800 - 800 watts of clean power to safely power sensitive electronics; Run time at 50% load for 3.6 hours; Super compact and quiet
  • iX 1400 - 1400 watts of clean power to safely power sensitive electronics; Run time50% at 5 hours; 12V DC charging outlet
  • iX1600 - 1600 watts of clean power to safely power sensitive electronics; Run time50% at 4.9 hours; 12V DC charging outlet
  • iX 2000 - 2000 watts of clean power to safely power sensitive electronics; Run time50% at 4.7 hours; 12V DC charging outlet

You can also watch this video of Generac's iX Series of portable generators. (There's really not much to it, though.)

Pure Michigan marketing campaign generates a record $1 billion

Author's note: Of course, I'm biased about this, but anything that promotes outdoor recreation is a good thing. I hardly ever support more government spending, which this is, but in this case the return on investment speaks for itself.

LANSING – On the heels of the launch of Michigan’s largest national tourism ad campaign to date, a new study by Longwoods International shows that last summer’s Pure Michigan advertising campaign brought record numbers of out-of-state visitors to Michigan in 2011. Summer advertising motivated 3.2 million trips to Michigan last year, and those visitors spent one billion dollars at Michigan businesses, paying $70 million in Michigan taxes.

Comparing that $70 million with the $14.2 million spent on Pure Michigan summer out-of-state advertising last year, the state received $4.90 back for each dollar invested in Pure Michigan advertising in 2011. The cumulative return on investment since the Pure Michigan campaign began in 2006 is now $3.70, up from $3.29 last year.

“The Pure Michigan campaign is delivering impressive results for our state, bringing millions of new visitors and their dollars to Michigan,” said Governor Rick Snyder. “It is because of the campaign’s positive impact on Michigan jobs and businesses and proven return on investment that I have made consistent and substantial funding for Pure Michigan a top priority of my administration.”

Of the 3.2 million out-of-state visitors generated by Pure Michigan last summer, 2 million came from the Great Lakes region and 1.2 million came from more distant markets around the country. In 2010, the Pure Michigan summer advertising motivated a total of 2 million trips from out of state, 1.2 million from the Great Lakes region and nearly 900,000 from more distant markets.

“This data shows steady increases in both the number of visitors Pure Michigan is bringing to the state and the amount of money they are spending at Michigan businesses on those trips,” said George Zimmermann, Vice President for Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We are only in our fourth year of national advertising, but we are making progress toward our goal of making Michigan one of America’s most popular summer vacation destinations.”

The 2012 Pure Michigan national advertising campaign will air more than 5,000 Pure Michigan TV commercials on cable network channels through June. The total budget for the 2012 national campaign is $12 million.

To read the Michigan's 2011 National and Regional Tourism Advertising Campaign Evaluation and Image Study, go to www.michigan.org/travelroi2011.

Longwoods International is a research firm specializing in tourism advertising return on investment.

Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, is the State of Michigan’s official agency for the promotion of tourism. Travel Michigan markets the state’s tourism industry and provides valuable visitor information services. For Michigan travel news and updates, go to michigan.org.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a public-private partnership serving as the state's marketing arm and lead agency for business, talent and jobs, focuses on helping grow Michigan's economy. For more on the MEDC and its initiatives, visit: MichiganAdvantage.org.

Michigan DNR lowers state forest campground fees

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes informed the Natural Resources Commission at its April meeting this past week that the DNR was lowering many fees at state forest campgrounds to align them more closely with fees at state parks and recreation areas offering similar amenities.

Most state forest campgrounds will have a $13 per site, per night fee rate (a reduction of $2). Campgrounds identified as equestrian state forest campgrounds, those associated with ORV trails, and the semi-modern Houghton Lake state forest campground will charge a $17 per site, per night rate (a reduction of $3).

Rates for group camps -- identified either as a canoe camp, trail camp, or group camp -- will remain at a fee of $6 per person, per night, while cabins remain at the $65 per night fee.

State forest campgrounds are rustic sites with fewer amenities than a state park. They are unstaffed and provide a more rustic, tent camping experience. Every state forest campground is located on a river or lake, and more than 60 campgrounds have nearby pathways for non-motorized trail recreation, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature observation. Accommodations range from five to 50 campsites, with group sites available. All campgrounds have vault toilets and potable water from hand pumps. Some sites are so remote they can only be accessed by a hike through woods or paddling down a river. 

Approximately 270 campsites at a variety of state forest campgrounds spread over 11 counties can be reserved through the state’s on-line reservation system. For more information, visit www.midnrreservations.com.

“The goal is to create a quality atmosphere for a rustic camping experience in state forest campgrounds at an appropriate fee,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation chief. “Also new this year will be the requirement to purchase a Recreation Passport to access all state forest campgrounds, in addition to Michigan state parks, recreation areas, and state-administered boating access fee sites.”

The Recreation Passport, which replaced motor vehicle permits, is also required at non-motorized state trail parking areas. This new way to fund Michigan's outdoor recreation opportunities helps preserve state forest campgrounds, trails, and historic and cultural sites in state parks. Also, the Passport will improve funding for state park infrastructure and rehabilitation and provide park development grants to local communities.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Seasonal lake level change for Hamlin Lake (Michigan)

Photo courtesy of www.HamlinLake.com
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that Ludington State Park in Mason County began the annual process of raising Hamlin Lake to its summer level on April 1. It is anticipated that the process will take two to four weeks, depending upon precipitation during the period. The summer level is maintained at approximately two feet above the winter level. 

At more than 12 miles long and 5,000 acres large, there's more than enough space for everyone without feeling crowded. Hamlin Lake touches Manistee National Forest on the north, towering dunes in the west and miles of undeveloped wilderness all around. This man made lake originated during the logging hey-day when lumbermen dammed the Big Sable River to make an enormous holding pond for trees felled upstream.

For more information, contact the park at 231-843-2423.

Ohio sportsmen and women encouraged to participate in survey

Deer and turkey hunters’ input sought on Ohio’s automated game-check system

COLUMBUS, OH - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife invites anglers, hunters and trappers to visit www.wildohio.com to take a new online survey.

The online survey asks fishing and hunting license buyers to provide feedback on their experience with the newly implemented license sales system. Deer and turkey hunters will also be given the opportunity to provide their input on the automated game-check system.

The online survey is available now and will run through April 30. Responses to the survey are confidential. Information provided by anglers, hunters and trappers is important to the successful management of Ohio's wildlife resources. The Division of Wildlife encourages all sportsmen and women to participate.

Pure Michigan marketing campaign invades Comerica Park

The Pure Michigan logo will be on display high atop
the light tower behind right field. Or, right about where
Prince Fielder will be sending some home run shots.
Author's note: With today being Opening Day for the 2012 season, I'm excited that two of my favorite things have come together - the Detroit Tigers and Pure Michigan. Now, when I'm watching my beloved Tigers on TV or in person, I'll also be seeing the Pure Michigan logo reminding me that when I'm not at home or in Comerica Park, I should be camping somewhere in the Great Lakes State (or any of its neighbors)!

LANSING – With opening day just around the corner, Pure Michigan and the Detroit Tigers have announced a new partnership to showcase Pure Michigan throughout Comerica Park. The focal point will be the Pure Michigan logo set against the Detroit skyline high atop the light tower located in right field.

Visitors to Comerica Park and fans watching on television will also see Pure Michigan displayed on the bench backs and railings for both the Tigers and visiting team dugouts, as well as behind home plate as part of the diamond view rotation.

“We are excited to bring the Pure Michigan message to baseball fans at Comerica Park and those watching Tigers games on television around the country,” said George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We also will be running Pure Michigan television commercials during Tigers games in select out-of-state markets.”

The Pure Michigan light tower sign and dugout presence will remain in Comerica Park throughout the next three years. The sign will be approximately 150 feet up on the light tower.

“We're genuinely thrilled Pure Michigan will have high visibility within Comerica Park," said Steve Harms, Tigers' Vice President of Corporate Partnerships. “What makes this partnership unique is the impact it will have on promoting the state of Michigan to the business community and the millions of baseball fans around the country. This is a relationship that will resonate both nationally and internationally in terms of media exposure to potential tourists to our great state, and will complement Pure Michigan's efforts.”

More than 2.6 million fans are expected to be in attendance at Comerica Park this year, with more than 25 million television viewers expected to watch Detroit Tigers baseball in 2012. Additionally, close to 2,000 visiting media come to Comerica Park each year to cover teams competing against the Tigers. This year, visiting media will also receive information from Pure Michigan about key events happening in 2012, as well as information on fun and famous destinations found within a short distance of Comerica Park.

Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, is the State of Michigan’s official agency for the promotion of tourism. Travel Michigan markets the state’s tourism industry and provides valuable visitor information services. For Michigan travel news and updates, go to michigan.org.

Illinois DNR Newsbits for April 2012

Camping Reservations: Now’s the time to make campsite and shelter reservations for many IDNR sites online through the Reserve America website at www.reserveamerica.com using a Visa or MasterCard. For more information, check the IDNR website at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/programs/camping/camprsvp.htm

2012 Illinois Licenses: 2012 Illinois hunting, fishing and sportsman’s combination licenses are required as of April 1. The 2012 licenses are available from DNR Direct license and permit vendors, online through the IDNR website www.dnr.illinois.gov/online/Pages/default.aspx or by calling 1-888-6PERMIT (1-888-673-7648). The 2012 licenses are valid through Mar. 31, 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Apply Now for Resident Firearm/Muzzleloader Deer Permits: Resident Illinois deer hunters can apply online through April 30 for the first lottery drawings for 2012 Illinois firearm and muzzleloader-only deer season permits through DNR Direct. Just click on the Online Services tab on the IDNR website home page at www.dnr.illinois.gov. Application forms in PDF format are also available on the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov/deer. The first lottery drawings for firearm and muzzleloader-only deer permits are for Illinois residents only. Resident hunters can apply in both the firearm and muzzleloader-only lotteries. The 2012 Illinois firearm deer seasons are Nov. 16-18 (first season) and Nov. 29-Dec. 2 (second season). The 2012 muzzleloader-only permits may be used Dec. 7-9 (and in the second firearm season, Nov. 29-Dec. 2).

Safety Reminder: Mushroom collectors and other visitors to Illinois state parks, fish and wildlife areas, and other IDNR-managed sites with spring turkey hunting programs in April and May are reminded that hunting areas are closed to activities other than turkey hunting from one-half hour before sunrise until 1 p.m. daily during the spring turkey season. The turkey hunting area restrictions are in place for the safety of site visitors and hunters.

Mushrooms: No license is required for mushroom collecting in Illinois, although collectors always need landowner permission and, on public sites, must adhere to approved collecting regulations and hours. Collection of mushrooms is allowed in many IDNR state parks and recreation areas, but it is prohibited in any area designated as a dedicated nature preserve. Areas under the jurisdiction of the IDNR that offer spring turkey hunting will not be open to mushroom collecting until after 1 p.m. daily to ensure the safety of all hunters.

Turkey hunting restrictions will apply until the close of the wild turkey hunting seasons on May 10 in the Southern Zone and May 17 in the Northern Zone. Mushroom hunters are urged to call ahead to the state site they intend to visit to learn of any site-specific regulations regarding mushroom collecting.

Spring Trout Season Opens April 7: The 2012 spring trout fishing season in Illinois will begin at 5 a.m. on Saturday, April 7. No trout may be taken prior to the April 7 opener. To legally participate in the trout fishing program, anglers must have a valid Illinois fishing license and an inland trout stamp. Anglers may also purchase a 24-hour Illinois fishing license, which includes trout fishing privileges for the 24-hour period the license is valid. A license is required for fishing in Illinois unless the angler is otherwise exempt (under age 16, blind or disabled, or is an Illinois resident on active military service who is home on leave). For more details, including the list of locations stocked for the spring catchable trout program, check the IDNR website at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/news/Pages/Illinois2012SpringTroutFishingSeasonOpensApril7.aspx

IDNR to Host Public Meeting on Stratton Lock and Dam Life Extension Project: The IDNR will host a public meeting on Monday, April 16 to discuss the Life Extension Project alternative analysis and selection for the William G. Stratton Lock and Dam on the Fox River in McHenry. The public meeting will be held on April 16 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Conference Center of the McHenry County College, 8900 U.S. Highway 14 in Crystal Lake. The lock, constructed in 1960 at Stratton Dam, does not have the capacity to meet the current peak demand. The sluice gates constructed in 1939 have reached the end of their useful life. Improvements to the lock and gates at Stratton Dam have been investigated. The IDNR Office of Water Resources will present the alternatives investigated for the lock and gate structure. Advantages, disadvantages and opinions on probable construction costs for the alternatives, as well as the alternative selection process will be presented. Public comments and questions will be accepted following the presentation.

Attention Boat Owners: All watercraft (other than sailboards) operated on the waters of Illinois must be registered and titled. Boat renewal notices reminding Illinois boat owners that their registration decals are due to expire on June 30, 2012 will be mailed in April. Any registration issued after January 1, 2012 with an expiration date of June 30, 2015 will be printed and mailed in late April. Boat owners are asked to carry their temporary permit (valid for 120 days) until they receive the registration decals. Boat titles are not affected by the delay and are being printed and mailed. For additional information on boat registration, check the IDNR website at this link: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/recreation/boating/Pages/Information.aspx

Hunter and Boating Safety Education: Check the schedule online and sign up now for 2012 Hunter Safety Education and Boating Safety Education courses from the IDNR. The website link for all IDNR Safety Education course information is www.dnr.illinois.gov/safety.

Mark Your Calendars: The 2012 Illinois Free Fishing Days will be June 8-11. For more information on fishing in Illinois, click on: www.dnr.illinois.gov or www.ifishillinois.org.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman: Registrations are still being accepted for the 2012 IDNR ‘Becoming an Outdoors Woman Workshop’ on June 8-10 at the Lorado Taft Field Campus in Oregon, Illinois. Classes are offered in more than 25 outdoor-related activities and skills. In addition to core classes on canoeing, archery, wild edibles, fishing, and firearm safety, there are several new classes offered at this workshop including advanced shotgun wingshooting, nature sketching, river kayaking, deer hunting and birding. Experienced and knowledgeable instructors provide a non-competitive and non-threatening environment for learning. The cost of $210 per person includes housing, meals, four classes, use of equipment, transportation during the event, and much more. Register online at www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/bow.

Science Series: The monthly science series program at the Illinois State Museum Research and Collections Center on Wed., April 11 is ‘Canine Companions: A Natural History of the Domestic Dog.’ You’re invited to the free program at 7 p.m. Dr. Chris Widga, ISM Assistant Curator of Geology, presents the program. The talk will review recent genetic, morphological, and archaeological research in the study of dog domestication, highlighting the importance of the Midwestern dogs from the archaeological record. The ISM Research and Collections Center is located at 1011 East Ash, Springfield. For more information, check the website at www.museum.state.il.us/events.

Crazy for Collage: The ‘Super Saturdays’ program this month at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield is ‘Crazy for Collage’ on Saturday, April 14 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. In celebration of the On & Of Paper exhibition at the museum, youngsters are invited to get creative and learn about different collage techniques and experiment with tissue paper, torn paper, scrapbook paper, and more. The program is free and is ideal for children ages 4-8. The Illinois State Museum is located in the State Capitol Complex in Springfield. For more information, phone 217-782-6044 or check online at www.museum.state.il.us/events.

Earth Day at the ISM: Celebrate Earth Day at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield on Sunday, April 22 from 12 noon until 5 p.m. During this free event, learn about 500 million years of environmental change in Illinois in the Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments exhibition. Visitors are invited to pick up a Changes Checklist at the front desk. These child-friendly search activities are a perfect way to take a closer look at the exhibition and learn new facts about mammals, birds, fish, and more. In honor of Earth Day, all visitors will receive a commemorative bookmark. The Illinois State Museum is at 502 S. Spring St., Springfield.