Volunteers needed in early December for stewardship at state parks in southeastern Michigan

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently announced the December schedule of volunteer stewardship workdays at state parks and recreation areas throughout southeastern Michigan. Volunteers are needed to cut invasive, non-native shrubs from high-quality wetlands, woodlands and prairies. This activity is a great way to enjoy time outdoors in the winter while restoring unique ecosystems and learning more about them.

Workday dates, locations and times include:

Volunteers should bring work gloves, drinking water and appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. For many winter sites, waterproof boots, either knee-high rubber boots or hip waders, are recommended to ensure dry feet. Rubber boots are available to borrow upon request and with advance notice. A limited supply is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

All volunteers are asked to register using the form available on the DNR website or via email. Any questions should be directed to Laurel Malvitz-Draper at 517-719-2285 or malvitzl@michigan.gov.

For workday details, maps and directions, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click the link Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.

Michigan Out Of Doors TV Video: Firearms Opening Day Tribute

Michigan Out of Doors T.V. (episode #1446) great bow hunt with Gabe VanWormer. The crew also has three viewer videos to show you as well as some pheasant hunting and their opening day tribute to all the hunters taking to the woods for the firearm opener!

About Michigan Out of Doors T.V.
Michigan Out-of-Doors TV is produced by Jimmy Gretzinger, Jenny Olsen, and Jordan Browne. It's a Michigan-based TV show focused on hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities. Michigan Out-of-Doors airs on all Michigan PBS stations in a primetime spot on Thursday nights and again on Saturday in most locations. The show is also shown on PBS in northern Ohio, northern Indiana, northern Illinois, northern Wisconsin, Alaska and throughout Canada on a cable station. For more information, visit http://www.michiganoutofdoorstv.com/index.cfm

Gone with the Wynns Video: Top 10 Boondocking Gadgets

Enjoy this video from Gone with the Wynns, a popular RV blogging couple.

Here's what the Wynns had to say about their video:
If you want to Wild Camp with your RV these gadgets and gear are must haves, at least in our opinions! Get all the details, specs, direct Amazon product links and bonus gadgets on our site.

Wild Camping is by far our favorite way to camp and explore...way better than the average campground. In this video we share our favorite dry camping gadgets for living off the cord in our RV. We hope this gear will help motivate you to take the plunge and go out and explore our public lands.

This article and video is our most recent crowdsourced content winner , voted by you!

About Gone with the Wynns
Jason and Nikki Wynn are a couple of perpetual travelers, RVers and modern day documentarians. Their RV is the home of their discoveries and adventures, all depicting the unscripted tale of the quirky couple who traded in everyday life to satisfy their wear-out-your-shoes sense of adventure. Visit their website.

Camping World Video: O-Grill

Revolutionize your grilling with the ultra-compact and portable O-Grill, perfect for camping, tailgating and picnics. It is lightweight and its unique style features an ergonomic handle, steel exterior, and retractable legs.

Inside you can find a cast iron cooking grid that provides 165 square inches of grilling surface with a porcelain-enamel finish. A stainless steel burner creates 9,000 BTUs of cooking power.

The grill can be easily started with a push button igniter and auto ignition ensures even cooking. The aluminum grease catch pan keeps your cooking area clean.

A standard 14.1 oz propane cylinder is required for operation and can generate up to 4 hours of cooking time. The heatproof steel craftsmanship ensures safe operation while in use.

When it is not in use, just fold up the retractable legs and store the O-Grill easily away until the next cookout.

Don't sacrifice grilling your favorite foods because of limited space. You can find the O-Grill on campingworld.com or your nearest Camping World Super Center.

Buy it now.

Guest Post: Austin Adventures Announces Death Valley Adventure Week

The inaugural Austin Adventures Death Valley trip departs Feb. 15, 2015, but travelers can learn about this distinctive vacation destination during the company’s upcoming Death Valley Adventure Week Dec. 1-7.

In 2014, Death Valley National Park began celebrating its 20th anniversary as a national park, and the adventure travel consultants at Austin Adventures are noticing a strong uptick in the number of inquiries about the region.

“We’ve added several new trips to our 2015 line up of adult adventure vacations and Death Valley is one that I’m particularly excited about,” said Dan Austin, president and founder of Austin Adventures (http://www.austinadventures.com). “My daughter Kasey and I were the trip scouts last spring and for months we’ve been looking forward to the day our guests get to experience this unique, and often underrated, destination.”

Death Valley Adventure Week kicks off on Monday, Dec. 1 with the announcement of a Facebook giveaway. The week will continue with daily social media posts dedicated to all things Death Valley, and on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. EST, Dan Austin will host an informative webinar, Death Valley: Why the Hottest, Lowest and Driest Place in North America is a Must-See.

Webinar attendees who book an Austin Adventures Death Valley vacation by Jan. 7, 2015 will save $100 per adult on the price of their trip. They’ll also receive a complimentary copy of The Explorer’s Guide to Death Valley National Park.

Austin Adventures’ Death Valley Adventure Vacation is a five-day, four-night itinerary for adults that includes hiking in Golden Canyon, biking in Badwater Basin, touring Titus Canyon by Jeep 4x4 and plenty of rest and relaxation at the historic AAA four-diamond Inn at Furnace Creek Resort where guests stay all four nights.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts owns both Austin Adventures and the Furnace Creek Resort — a Death Valley National Park establishment since 1927. As a result, Austin Adventures guests are afforded exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences including a private sunset BBQ in the desert and rooms with some of the best views in the valley.

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the lower 48 states, and it is infamous for being the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America. But as the Austin Adventures blog points out in a recent post, 10 Ridiculously Cool Things That You Didn’t Know About Death Valley, there’s more to this expanse of the Mojave Desert than meets the eye.  

About Austin Adventures
Based in Billings, MT, Austin Adventures (formerly Austin-Lehman Adventures) has spent more than 40 years building an international reputation as a provider of scheduled small group tours and customized trips to all seven continents. In 2014, Kasey Austin, Vice President of Operations, was named the World’s Top Family Guide by Outside Magazine. In 2013, Austin Adventures joined the Xanterra Parks & Resorts portfolio of experiential leisure offerings. Xanterra Parks & Resorts has operations in the Grand Canyon, including Grand Canyon Railway and The Grand Hotel; Yellowstone; Zion; Crater Lake; Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

Michigan conservation officers offer top 10 tips for a safe hunting experience

As firearm deer hunting season is underway, Michigan’s hunters are headed to the field to carry on the state’s rich hunting traditions. Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are offering their top tips for a safe hunting.

“Hunting in Michigan is a time-honored activity rich in tradition, when families and friends come together to enjoy our great outdoors,” said Lt. Andrew Turner, who leads the DNR’s Recreation, Safety and Enforcement Section for the Law Enforcement Division. “Making your hunt a safe and responsible experience is key to having an enjoyable and memorable time. Our officers want everyone to have a safe and responsible experience.”

Turner said the top 10 safety tips for hunters to remember are:

  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Be certain of your target, and what's beyond it, before firing. Know the identifying features of the game you hunt. Make sure you have an adequate backstop - don’t shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
  • Keep your finger outside the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Don’t run, jump or climb with a loaded firearm. Unload a firearm before you climb a fence or tree or jump a ditch. Pull a firearm toward you by the butt, not the muzzle.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages before or during hunting. Also avoid mind- or behavior-altering medicines or drugs.
  • All firearm deer hunters on any land during daylight hunting hours must wear a hat, cap, vest or jacket of hunter orange visible from all sides. All hunters, including archers, must comply during gun season.
  • Camouflage hunter orange is legal provided 50 percent of the surface area is solid hunter orange. (Exceptions: waterfowl, crow, and wild turkey hunters, and bow hunters for deer during bow season).
  • Always let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan on returning. This information helps conservation officers and others locate you if you get lost.
  • Carry your cell phone into the woods. Remember to turn your ringer off or set your phone to vibrate rather than ring. Your cellp hone emits a signal that can help rescuers locate you when you are lost. Make sure before you leave for the woods each day that your phone is fully charged. If you have a smart phone, download a compass and flashlight app – there are many versions of these apps that are free to download in the iPhone App Store or on Google Play for Android. Also, program the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Line in your phone contacts – 1-800-292-7800 – so you can alert conservation officers to any natural resources violations you witness while hunting.

“These simple, common sense tips can prevent hunting accidents and save lives,” said Turner. “We encourage all sportsmen and women to follow these guidelines when enjoying the great outdoors in our state.”

For more information about hunting in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/hunting.

Michigan Out Of Doors TV Video: Bow Hunting in the U.P. & More

This week (episode #1445) the crew of Michigan Out Of Doors starts with taking a look at some new firearm options for Michigan hunters. They also stop in for the first ever Woodcock challenge put on by the Ruffed Grouse Association and then do a little bow hunting in the UP.

Rollin' On TV Video: Dicor Rubber Roof repair kit, Four Wheel Camper & Evanne Down Under

On this episode (#2014-24), Rollin' On TV shows us how to repair that old rubber roof with the Dicor Rubber Roof repair kit.  Also, they look at Four Wheel Camper's new flat bed truck camper. And Evanne Schmarder continues her Australian RV adventure with a visit to Food Frea.

Winnebago garners Readers’ Choice Awards from MotorHome magazine

Winnebago Industries, Inc., a leading United States recreation vehicle manufacturer, received notification from MotorHome Magazine that Winnebago received Readers’ Choice Awards in all three motorhome classes.  Winnebago is the top selling brand in North America.

According to MotorHome Magazine, Winnebago’s Class C motorhomes were named as this year’s Gold winner, while the Class A, received Silver status and the Class B received Bronze status in their third annual Readers’ Choice Awards.  The Readers’ Choice Awards included many of North America’s most popular motorhomes, campgrounds, RV products and services. Winnebago Industries’ was the only recipient to receive this award in the Class C Gold category.

MotorHome readers were invited to choose from more than 100 brands and cast votes online at www.motorhome.com for their favorites in 27 categories.

“We are honored to be named by the readers of MotorHome magazine as the one of the top products in the industry in every motorhome category,” said Winnebago Vice President of Sales and Product Management Scott Degnan.  “This is particularly significant as MotorHome Magazine is the leading retail consumer motorhome magazine in the industry and we were privileged to receive awards every year of the Readers Choice Awards existence.  We have an amazing lineup of motorhome models with new and exciting products being introduced each and every year.  Our quality and innovation make us stand apart from the competition and we will continue to strive for excellence in meeting and exceeding consumer expectation in both our products and services.”

About Winnebago
Winnebago, The Most Recognized Name In Motorhomes, is a leading U.S. manufacturer of recreation vehicles, which are used primarily in leisure travel and outdoor recreation activities. The Company and its subsidiary build quality motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheel products and transit buses. Winnebago Industries has received the Quality Circle Award from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association every year since the award's inception in 1996. The Company's common stock is listed on the New York and Chicago Stock Exchanges and traded under the symbol WGO. Options for the Company's common stock are traded on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. For access to Winnebago Industries' investor relations material or to add your name to an automatic email list for Company news releases, visit, http://www.wgo.net/investor.html.

Pure Michigan Video: 360-degree views of Michigan

In partnership with Google Maps, Pure Michigan borrowed a Google Street View Trekker camera and collected imagery of iconic Michigan landmarks, trails and destinations not accessible by vehicle.

The Trekker is a special 40-pound backpack equipped with 15 cameras capturing 360-degree photographs every 2.5 seconds.

This technology will give people around the world a way to connect with Michigan in a way they may never have before. We expect many people may never get to explore these places in person, so we are happy to open Michigan up for the world to enjoy.

Soon Google Maps users will be able to explore a variety of Michigan's popular locations never before available in Street View.

Top 10 Indiana campgrounds for a Fall Camping Adventure

Honest To Goodness Indiana, the state's official travel planning resource, recently listed the readers' choices for the Top 10 Campgriunds for a Fall Camping Adventure. It's a little late for fall camping, but that doesn't mean these parks shouldn't be on your radar for a camping trip next season.

And here they are:

Brown County State Park - Nicknamed the “Little Smokies” because of the area’s resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains, Brown County encompasses nearly 16,000 acres of rugged hills, ridges and fog-shrouded ravines. Glaciers from the most recent ice ages stopped short of the “hills o’ Brown,” but their meltwaters helped create the narrow ridges, steep slopes and deep gullies of Brown County State Park. Indiana’s largest park is a traditional fall color hot spot, with nearly 20 miles of tree-lined roads and many scenic vistas overlooking miles of uninterrupted forestland. The park’s rustic Abe Martin Lodge offers accommodations that include motel rooms, cabins, dining and conference facilities and an indoor water park. Large campgrounds, hiking and mountain biking trails, interpretive services, a saddle barn for guided horse rides and a separate horseman campground with 70 miles of horse trails are some of the things that make Brown County State Park popular year-round. The surrounding county and nearby Indiana town of Nashville are famous for their unique shopping, dining, arts and crafts, history, entertainment, and outdoor adventure opportunities. Reserve campsites and shelters at camp.IN.gov or call 866.622.6746.

Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort - Escape to the great outdoors by staying at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in Santa Claus. Voted one of the top ten favorite parks in North America and a two-time National RV Park of the Year, Lake Rudolph is the closest lodging and camping to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. Enjoy the RV Experience Without Owning Your Own RV! Lake Rudolph’s multiple family lodging options include over 270 Cabins & Rental RVs that all sleep 4 adults and 4 children, include AC/heat, bathrooms with showers, fully equipped kitchens and more. Hundreds of full-hookup RV sites and tent sites are also available. Experience Lake Rudolph’s family fun amenities including Santa’s Splash Down WaterPark, the giant Blitzen Bay swimming pool, playgrounds, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, fishing, paddleboats, kayaks, gem mining, mini golf, game room, camp store, Blitzen Kitchen Ice Cream & Pizza, and much more. Enjoy FREE pizza delivery to your site, FREE WiFi at nearly every site and FREE Holiday World shuttle to and from the theme parks. Family favorites include renting one of Lake Rudolph’s golf cars, joining in the daily planned activities, visiting with Rudolph and staying during Halloween Weekends in September and October.

Turkey Run State Park - You'll marvel at the natural geologic wonders of Turkey Run State Park as you hike along its famous trails. Nestled along State Road 47 southwest of Crawfordsville, the park offers the chance to explore deep, sandstone ravines, walk along stands of aged forests, and enjoy the scenic views along Sugar Creek. Make sure to visit the Colonel Richard Lieber Cabin, which commemorates the contributions of the father of Indiana's state park system. Nature center with nature programs, saddlebarns with escorted rides. Reserve campsites and shelters at camp.IN.gov or call 866.622.6746.

Indiana Dunes State Park - Indiana Dunes State Park consists of 2,182 acres of primitive, beautiful, historic and unique Hoosier landscape. It lies at the north end of State Road 49 in Porter County, and includes more than three miles of beautiful beach along Lake Michigan’s southern shore. In the early 1900s scientists, recreationists and nature enthusiasts, recognizing the value and potential of the Indiana dunes area, fought to have the region preserved. As a result, in 1925, the state park was established. Large sand dunes, located beyond the entire shoreline, have taken thousands of years to form, and tower nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan. A wide range of habitats and plant species are found in the park, with vegetation stabilizing some of the sand. These habitats provide homes for many types of plants and animals. The lake also provides habitat for many aquatic species, as well as a constantly changing fishery. Nature center with nature/history programs. Access to Calumet Trail. Reserve campsites and shelters at camp.IN.gov or call 866.622.6746.

Clifty Falls State Park - Clifty Falls State Park is located near Madison with entrances on state roads 56 and 62. The park’s waterfalls change moods with the weather and the seasons and can range from roaring plunges to delicate bridal-veil mists to gleaming frozen titans. Winter and spring visits reveal them at their best. The rugged splendor of Clifty Canyon offers exciting year-round hiking and scenery. Clifty Creek’s stony bed is littered with fossil remnants telling of a long vanished marine ecosystem that teemed with life that included ancient corals, ancestral squids, brachiopods and more. Fossil collecting within Clifty Falls State Park is prohibited but nearby collecting locations are readily accessible. In Historic Madison, tour the Lanier State Historic Site, the former mansion of frontier banker James F.D. Lanier, and enjoy the drive along the beautiful Ohio River. Plan a park visit during one of the community's special events, such as the July Regatta hydroplane boat race or the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art in late September. Challenging hiking and scenic waterfalls. Nature center with nature/history programs. Reserve campsites and shelters at camp.IN.gov or 866.622.6746.

Spring Mill State Park - Spring Mill State Park offers a powerful illustration of the link between the natural and cultural worlds. The water flowing from several cave springs led to the founding of an industrial village in the early 1800s. Pioneer entrepreneurs took advantage of a constant water source that never froze, using it to power several gristmills, a wool mill, a saw mill, and a distillery. In turn, pioneer settlers shaped the landscape around the village, clearing land for agriculture and timber. The park today continues to illustrate how nature shapes us and how we shape our environment. A parcel of virgin timber sits in contrast to regenerated forest, a man-made lake struggles to survive against the in-flow of silt from cave-fed systems, and the native flora and fauna face challenges from man’s introduction of new species. Visitors can explore this story in the park’s four interpretive facilities—the Pioneer Village, Nature Center, Grissom Memorial, and Twin Caves Boat Tour—and see it reflected on the landscape as they hike the trails. The interpretive staff also offers a wide variety of public programs, including an extensive special events schedule. Public programs are offered year-round. Click here for program schedules. Pioneer Village, "Gus" Grissom Memorial, mountain bike trail and nature center. Reserve campsites and shelters at camp.IN.gov or call 866.622.6746.

McCormick's Creek State Park - Explore the spectacular limestone canyon, flowing creek, and scenic waterfalls that highlight McCormick's Creek State Park - Indiana’s first state park. Hike trails featuring diverse forest trees, spicebush, and native wildflowers, including a trail through Wolf Cave Nature Preserve and an accessible trail at the recently renovated nature center. Experience history as you climb the fire tower, use shelter houses or cross the stone arch bridge created by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or examine the historic Statehouse Quarry near White River, which furnished limestone used for the Indianapolis Statehouse. Relax in the lobby of Canyon Inn, open to all park visitors, or watch birds from the dining room porch. Catch cultural events such as concerts in the park amphitheater or attend the several special events hosted annually at the park. McCormick’s Creek State Park offers active enjoyment through all seasons of the year. Rustic park known for hiking, wildflowers and McCormick's Creek Canyon. Reserve campsites and shelters at camp.IN.gov or call 866.622.6746.

Starve Hollow - Starve-Hollow State Recreation Area encompasses approximately 280 acres offering some of the best camping in southern Indiana. Carved out of 18,000-acre Jackson-Washington State Forest, it provides fishing and boat rental on 145-acre Starve Hollow Lake, swimming on the large sandy beach or the chance to learn about conservation at the Education Center. For the more avid outdoor enthusiast, hiking and mountain biking on nearby trails is available. Hunting can be done during various seasons by accessing nearby Jackson – Washington State Forest. Playgrounds and shelters that can be reserved are located on the property as well. Access to nearby mountain bike and hiking trails. Beach, paved boat ramps, nature center. Reserve sites at camp.IN.gov or call 866-622-6746.

Shades State Park - Shades State Park is that peaceful place you've sought. Located about 17 miles southwest of Crawfordsville (off S.R. 47), it is a favorite for hikers and canoeists. The beautiful sandstone cliffs overlooking Sugar Creek and numerous shady ravines provide the backdrop for your journey through this nature lover's paradise. Also on the property is Pine Hills Nature Preserve, which affords spectacular topography for those willing to take a fairly long hike. From November-March, Shades State Park is open for day use only (8 a.m. until dusk). All visitors must leave the park at dusk. There is no camping available. Overnight camping is available at Turkey Run State Park just 15 miles to the southwest. Turkey Run also has an inn and cabins. In the event of heavy snow or ice, the property management may delay opening the gate to accommodate for snow removal efforts. Contact the property for if you have further questions. Rustic park known for hiking and sandstone cliffs overlooking Sugar Creek. Reserve campsites and shelters at camp.IN.gov or call 866.622.6746.

South Bend / Elkhart North KOA - This is the KOA with a gelato bar! Relax at South Bend / Elkhart North KOA, a peaceful family campground, nestled between the pulsing cities of South Bend and Elkhart, 7 miles from University of Notre Dame and RV capital of the world. There are many attractions nearby like Studebaker and Hudson Museum, Shipshewana and Amish country, Chocolate factory, Notre Dame and the RV capital, RV manufacturers, RV surplus stores and the RV Hall of Fame, Enjoy the beauty of Northern Indiana, with fishing places nearby. Spacious, level full hookup RV sites are available, with cable TV access and free WiFi. We feature two dog runs, so bring the pets! And don't miss the petting zoo!

Snowshoe-making workshop offered Dec. 6 at Iron Industry Museum

Green Mountain Bearpaw and Ojibwa styles both offered

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum will offer participants in its snowshoe-making workshop Saturday, Dec. 6, the chance to lace their own pair of traditional snowshoes to give as a gift or to enjoy for personal use.

The all-day workshop (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) will give participants the opportunity to choose from two snowshoe styles:

  • Green Mountain Bearpaw, which is 36 inches long by 10 inches wide, with no tail (and recommended for those with a weight under 200 pounds).
  • Ojibwa, which is 54 inches long by 11 inches wide.

“Snowshoeing has a long history as a mode of transportation in the snowy Upper Peninsula,” said Michigan Iron Industry Museum historian Troy Henderson. “This workshop celebrates that history and encourages participants to explore our winter landscape.”

Henderson said that while participants are making their shoes, they'll learn about the history of snowshoes and why they are a popular pastime in Michigan.

The Iron Industry Museum now is open year-round and features a new network of trails on the museum grounds.

Space for this workshop is limited and reservations are required. It is not recommended for children under 13. The workshop fee of $175 per person includes all materials and a $25 nonrefundable reservation fee. The registration deadline is Friday, Nov. 21; the registration form can be found online at www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum (click on Events and then on December in the calendar options). For more information about the class or reservations, contact Troy Henderson at 906-475-7857 or hendersont7@michigan.gov.

The museum entrance is located on U.S. 41E, 1 mile west of Junction M-35, in Negaunee Township. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan Historical Center, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources. It overlooks the site of the Carp River Forge, a pioneer industrial site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the winter months the museum is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first Saturday of each month.

For more information call 906-475-7857 or visit online at www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum.

Camping World Video: Flojet Waste Pump Kit

Sometimes when camping sewer hookups are not available and the nearest dump station could be miles away. You don't want to move your camper once your waste tanks are full, so the Flojet Waste Pump Kit is the perfect solution to the problem.

The Flojet Waste Pump Kit attaches directly to the RV waste outlet and works by sending the tank holdings through a macerator that grinds the waste down to a maximum particle size of 1/8 of an inch. The waste can then easily flow out through a garden hose from the garden hose discharge port to a portable tank, toilet, sewer clean-out port or septic tank.

A typical 30 gallon waste tank can be drained in less than 3 minutes and most recirculating toilets can be emptied in less than 1 minutes.

The Flojet also has a can also be hooked up to fresh water so your tank can be rinsed clean.

This product comes with a sturdy case for storing your Flojet Pump and a convenient on/off remote equipped with a 6' wire harness.

Don't compromise on your camping location because of sewer limitations and buy the Flojet RV Waste Pump Kit at www.campingworld.com or your local Camping world Supercenter.

Get it now.

Guest Post: Bicycle Adventures Is wheeling in families with new Cycling Holidays for 2015

Bicycle Adventures is wheeling into the active family travel market with a new-for-2015 Family Tour Series.

This Pacific Northwest-based active travel company specializing in two-wheel tours in North America and internationally offers three new family options on vehicle-free bike paths in Idaho, South Dakota and Seattle.

“What sets us apart? The most exciting thing about our family tours is is that all of them are on safe, car-free bike paths. The routes are super-fun, incredibly scenic and safe as can be,” said Todd Starnes, Bicycle Adventures’ President and Owner. He said his staff can arrange to accommodate infants and toddlers in trailers; children as young as four can participate in pedaling special tag-along bikes attached to the back of a parent’s bicycle. Equipment is provided by the company.

“Our company receives most of our new trip and destination ideas from our loyal alumni riders,” explains Starnes. “For years we’ve been hearing, ‘what about more family trips?’ so we’ve responded with a sure-to-be-a-hit lineup of cool rides!”

The two-wheel itineraries include such diversions as ice cream stops, amusement parks, swimming and river rafting. Here’s Bicycle Adventures’ new family trip roster:

Idaho’s Coeur d'Alene Family Tour
Two of the "best paved bike trails in the U.S." - says Bicycling Magazine are the Trail of the Hiawatha and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene. Guests ride through tunnels and over trestle bridges and even take a chairlift to the top of a mountain and ride bikes down again. There’s rafting on the Clark Fork River and a side trip to Silverwood Theme Park. This five-day program is $2,295; children’s discounts are available. Departures are June 29, July 13 and Aug. 17. http://bicycleadventures.com/tours/family-bike-tours/Coeur-d'Alene-Family

South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore Family Tour
This itinerary opens up everything this astonishing area has to offer, from the country's #1-ranked bike path, the Mickelson Trail, to the world-famous Wall Drug to buffalo grazing in the Badlands to playing in hot springs. Families explore a pre-historic mammoth dig and Wind Cave NP (discovered by a bored teenager), rock climb before cycling to Sylvan Lake, the Flintstones' Bedrock City and to Crazy Horse Monument, the largest rock sculpture in the world. Then it's off to Mt Rushmore and a tour finish in the rough-and-tumble town of Deadwood, once home to Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane. A Wild West gunfight is for show and tell. The six-day adventure is $2,395; children’s discounts available. Departures are June 14 and 28. http://bicycleadventures.com/tours/family-bike-tours/Mt.-Rushmore-Family-Tour

Seattle Family Tour
Cyclists gather on the coal miners' trail with a short trail ride to the Iron Horse B&B to stay in honest-to-goodness converted cabooses. Then they ride the John Wayne Trail through a two-mile bike path tunnel to the summit of Snoqualmie Pass and on to Rattlesnake Lake with a quick stop for rock climbing, hiking and/or a dip. There’s time for a ferry ride and to explore downtown Seattle, Pike's Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, the Space Needle and pedaling the waterfront bike path. This five-day trip is $2,395; children’s discounts available. Departures are June 22, July 13 and Aug. 10. http://bicycleadventures.com/tours/family-bike-tours/Seattle-Family-Tour

Bicycle Adventures has offered a special trip for families in the past and will continue its popular Hawaii Family with extra kid-friendly activities built into the tour in addition to hiking, biking and catamaran cruising. Guests may opt for stand-up-paddle boarding or surfing lesson plus there’s plenty of time to snorkel and to enjoy some of the great swimming pools at the hotels when not pedaling quiet back roads and lanes. An ocean-side natural hot spring at Ahalanui Park heated with volcanoes is a big hit with the kids. The per person double rate for six days is $2,660; children’s discounts available. Departures Mar. 29 and Dec. 27, 2015. http://bicycleadventures.com/tours/family-bike-tours/Hawaii-Family-Bike-Tour

For more information, 2014 and 2015 availability and reservations contact Bicycle Adventures by phone: 800.443.6060, email: office@bicycleadventures.com or visit online at: http://bicycleadventures.com/.

About Bicycle Adventures
Scenic byways, four and five-star accommodations and local dining and visits to National Parks are trademarks Bicycle Adventures, founded in 1984.  Types of tours include Classic (25-50 miles a day), Classic Plus (50-60 miles a day) and Epic (70+ miles a day with the most demanding terrain). Value-driven Frugal category of trips offers budget-conscious lodging and meals, van support and shorter itineraries.
Pre-set and custom tours embrace the Pacific Northwest into Canada, California and the Southwest, as well as Colorado, South Dakota, New York, Hawaii, New Zealand, Spain’s Basque region and Taiwan. Excelling in its own backyard the Issaquah, WA,-based company conducts tours of Washington State’s wine country and includes an immersion into the craft beer industry in California, Oregon and Washington.

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Northern Michigan Deer PLAN projects aim to improve habitat, health of the herd

Deer PLAN grant recipient John Roper, joined by grandchildren
Aubrey Roper and Matthew Perrou, prepares fertilizer for land he
is converting to food plots on his property near Ocqueoc in Presque
Isle County. The planted openings will provide a food source for
deer and other wildlife on his property and nearby public land.
(DNR photos)
When hunting license fees went up in 2014 (for the first time in 17 years), hunters were told that a good portion of the increased revenue would be used to improve wildlife habitat across the state. The question on many hunters’ minds this fall as they purchase their deer license has been: How is that money being spent?Deer PLAN habitat grant work

A prime example is the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ new Deer Private Land Assistance Network, a grant program funded by hunting license sales that is designed to improve deer habitat on private land in the northern Lower Peninsula.

Commonly known as the Deer PLAN, the grant program, which is administered by the DNR's Wildlife Division, aims to produce tangible deer habitat improvement benefits and reduce negative impacts to agricultural operations, while fostering positive relationships between the DNR, sportsmen’s organizations, private landowners, and other partners.

Deer PLAN grants were awarded for the first time in 2014 to 12 recipients, and another 10 projects were approved for completion in 2015. The grants can be used for projects within six counties in the northern Lower Peninsula -- Presque Isle, Montmorency, Alpena, Crawford, Oscoda, and Alcona -- for work ranging from selective timber cuts and planting of mast (fruit and nut)-producing trees, to the creation of wildlife breakout areas and food plots. To participate in the program, landowners who receive grants are required to pay a minimum of 25 percent of the project costs.

Matthew Perrou and Aubrey Roper, grandchildren of Deer PLAN
grant recipient John Roper, spread fertilizer on the future site of
new food plots that are surrounded by public land in Presque Isle
County. The food plots will help attract deer for hunters on both
public and private land.
"Some projects have been small perennial food plot plantings; others were as large as putting in several hundred oaks and crabapple trees on a couple of hundred acres," said Brian Piccolo, the DNR wildlife biologist that oversees the Deer PLAN program.

Habitat grant workGrants are awarded on a competitive basis and potential projects are scored on a number of criteria, including whether public access to the land is available. While public access is not required it is highly desired, and projects with provisions that allow a minimum of foot access to the public for hunting and fishing will have an advantage in the project scoring process.

Proximity to active agricultural lands – in order to assist in reducing negative impacts deer can have on agricultural operations, including crop damage and the spread of bovine tuberculosis – is also a priority in the scoring process.

“The Deer PLAN dovetails nicely with the state’s bovine tuberculosis management plan,” Piccolo said. “The main management objective in these six counties is to eradicate bovine TB. With improved habitat that attracts deer to more desirable areas, the herd should be healthier, hunters are more likely to see and harvest deer, and improved habitat should spread the herd out more across the landscape and away from agricultural operations.

Grant recipient John Roper watches as grandson Matthew Perrou
loads seed into the hopper for planting. Roper involved his grand-
children in his Deer PLAN project to encourage an appreciation
for wildlife habitat management at a young age.
“These outcomes will not only help to decrease the possibility of disease transmission from deer to deer, but it will also help to pull deer away from areas of high concentration, such as pasture and row crop fields. In doing so, participants will help to deter crop damage from local farms and will assist in the eventual eradication of the disease in the wild deer herd.”

The Deer PLAN is funded by hunting license sales, including the state’s new base license required of all hunters to support habitat and conservation work, and the Deer Range Improvement Project funds collected from the sale of deer licenses.

John Roper, who owns a 40-acre parcel near Ocqueoc in Presque Isle County, applied for and received a grant that he says has already worked wonders.

“I had some open ground, about three acres surrounded by woods, and I always tried to get some things going for the deer, but I never could come up with a sustainable plan because of the costs,” he said. “But when I heard about this grant program, I applied for it, and now I’ve got a pretty good crop going.

John Roper and grandson Matthew Perrou plant seed on Roper’s
property in early September. Converting the formerly unproductive
small openings into food plots will help attract deer to an area that
is surrounded by public hunting land, one goal of the
DNR’s new Deer PLAN grant program.
“We put in clover and alfalfa and then put in oats as a cover crop. That’s something that’s going to last for three or four years and it’s amazing to see how many deer come in and forage on it. Obviously there was a need for something like that because I’ve got about half the forest feeding in there now. In my area, there’s mostly jack pine and low swamp area, but there’s really not much of a food source there for the deer. So these crops are just a great supplement for them.”

Roper’s property is surrounded by state land on four sides, so public-land hunters will benefit from the deer coming and going from the planted field along with hunters on Roper’s land. And that’s all part of the PLAN.

“Deer are traveling constantly, that’s no secret, whether it’s to or from winter range or summer range or from bedding to feeding areas,” Piccolo said. “A lot of times they’re crossing public land to get to these project areas. When we score the projects, if the land adjoins public land on four, three or even two sides, it scores higher and is more likely to get funded.”

Although there have been some eyebrows raised about using public funds for projects on private land, Piccolo points out that 76 percent of land in Michigan is privately owned, so good habitat management on these properties greatly impacts the overall quality of the state’s deer herd.

“Public land is not getting the short end of the deal,” Piccolo said. “The far majority of money generated by hunting license sales is earmarked for the management of state land. But we’ll never reach the full potential for managing wildlife habitat in this state by only working on public land.”

Roper prepares a fertilizer mix before spreading it on the land he
will convert into food plots as part of the DNR’s Deer PLAN
habitat program. DNR staff provided Roper with technical guidance
and advice regarding use of fertilizer, weed control and seed to
successfully convert unproductive openings into productive food plots.
Piccolo said one of the Deer PLAN grant recipients is improving habitat by replacing lost hard-mast trees by planting oak trees and crabapples.

“He had removed most of the ash that was dying from emerald ash borers, and a lot of his beech trees were cut, due to the presence of beech bark disease. That’s where the planting of oaks for this property becomes so valuable because their acorn production will replace the loss of mast-producing beech trees that are so important to deer,” Piccolo said.

David Dillon, who received a Deer PLAN grant in 2013, planted a combination of apple trees and clover food plots to draw deer out of the adjacent lowland areas on his property to improve hunting opportunities and harvest rates.

“These lowland areas are holding a lot of deer but they are difficult to hunt because it’s such thick cover” said Dillon.

Improving hunter harvest rates within the six-county area accomplishes the Deer PLAN’s goal of reducing herd density in the TB zone. Increased opportunity for a successful hunt can also lead to improved recruitment and retention of hunters.

Habitat grant workThe apple trees and food plots Dillon planted are in close proximity to deer hunting blinds that he makes available to youth hunters and veterans with disabilities looking for a place to hunt. (Deer PLAN project proposals that allow special access for hunting by youth or veterans with disabilities receive additional points in the competitive scoring process.)

“Hunter recruitment and retention are important to me” said Dillon. “These areas created with Deer PLAN funds have increased deer harvest on my property and they are providing great spots for kids and disabled vets to hunt over.”

Piccolo said most grant recipients are “ecstatic” about the PLAN. John Roper certainly is.

“I wanted to get my grandchildren involved in it, get them thinking about creating habitat for deer and getting their hands dirty,” he said. “I think it’s a great plan. And it was a good experience working with the DNR on it – we sat down and worked out what to plant and how to do it, what kind of fertilizer to use, and what kind of weed control to do.

“This gave us an opportunity to do it right and you can tell it’s paying off.”

To learn more about the DNR's wildlife habitat improvement grant programs, including the northern Lower Peninsula Deer PLAN, and how to apply, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants.

Save the Dunes and DNR win grant to re-forest Dunes State Park campground

Accordng to a report by the Chesterton Tribune, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has been awarded a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant for a tree planting project in the Indiana Dunes State Park campground.

In recent years, a large scale die-off of trees has occurred in the campground “due to a lack of age diversity in the trees,” Save the Dunes said. “Through funding from the GLRI, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will re-forest the campground area with approximately 80 new trees of varying ages and species. While a number of species will be planted, predominantly red, white, and black oak, all species will be native.”

Replacing dying trees with healthy ones will do the following, Save the Dunes said:

  • Help stabilize the nearshore habitat along Dunes Creek.
  • Reduce erosion and resulting sedimentation loads in Dunes Creek and thus in Lake Michigan as well.
  • Provide wildlife habitat.
  • Help regulate temperatures in the campground.
  • And enhance visitor experience.

“Providing the best experience possible at the State Park is crucial in attracting and maintaining visitors, and a comfortable, secluded, and aesthetically pleasing campground is an important component of visitor experience,” officials from Save the Dunes said.

Read the full report.

Century-old Grand Haven factory to become RV resort

WZZM photo
According to a report by WZZM, next summer, the site of a century-old factory will become a new option for those who want to camp in Grand Haven. Developers have permission to begin work on a 20-acre RV resort at Beechtree and Fulton Avenue.

The Eagle Ottawa tannery closed in Grand Haven's East Town neighborhood in 2006; it was a site that once provided 800 jobs. Now the land is being prepared for recreation. The Grand Haven Planning Commission has approved plans for East Point R.V. Resort.

Resort general manager Mike Lepo says think camping, but upscale. "A clubhouse with a pool, cable wi-fi, water, and sewer."

The construction work should finish in time for a May first opening. The site includes frontage on the Grand River with boat docks so boaters can access Spring Lake and Lake Michigan.

The RV resort will have long-term camping something campers can't do at the state park. It could draw several thousand new faces each summer to a part of Grand Haven most pass right by.

Click here to read the full report.

Roadtrek Unveils New Website

Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc., the leading class B manufacturer in North America unveils its new responsive website.  

In conjunction with their recent updated branding including new logo and tag line, Roadtrek is proud to unveil their new website showcasing their #1 selling line up of class b motorhomes. 

The website offers a brand new user experience with large, updated photography, easy to read product specs, simple to navigate menus, updated locators for dealers, service and rental providers, a revamped “Build Your Own” experience and much more. The website has also been optimized to be responsive to any device the site is viewed on, allowing for the best view and user experience whether you are on a smart phone, tablet or desktop. 

“We are excited and proud to unveil our new website. The fresh new look of the site compliments the upscale branding we recently launched and brings it all together.” states Karyn Torcoletti, Director of Marketing “ The new website is visually pleasing, showcasing our products well and creates a user experience that we are sure anyone visiting the site will enjoy.”

Visit their website at www.roadtrek.com 

About Roadtrek
Roadtrek is a leading manufacturer of class B motorhomes (camper vans) in North America, a position held since 1990, selling its motorhomes through a network of independent RV dealers in the USA, Canada and Japan.

Michigan Out of Doors T.V. (#1444)

Michigan Out of Doors T.V. (episode #1444) stops in at a northern MI bow camp, hits the water for some sturgeon on some fall run salmon and ends the show with a trophy buck of a lifetime!

About Michigan Out of Doors T.V.
Michigan Out-of-Doors TV is produced by Jimmy Gretzinger, Jenny Olsen, and Jordan Browne. It's a Michigan-based TV show focused on hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities. Michigan Out-of-Doors airs on all Michigan PBS stations in a primetime spot on Thursday nights and again on Saturday in most locations. The show is also shown on PBS in northern Ohio, northern Indiana, northern Illinois, northern Wisconsin, Alaska and throughout Canada on a cable station. For more information, visit http://www.michiganoutofdoorstv.com/index.cfm

Rollin' on TV (episode #2014-23) visits TrailManor, shows canvas replacement on a Popup

In this episode (#2014-23), Rollin' on TV takes a look at replacing your pop-up tent canvas and what goes into making a new one. Plus, we visit Trail Manor in Tennessee. And Evanne, starts to wind down her Australian RV adventure.

About Rollin' on TV
Now in its fourth year of production, Rollin’ On TV has become a leading RV, lifestyle television program reaching over 30 million homes on both cable and satellite TV. The weekly program is also available online. For additional information and for times and days the show airs, visit  www.rollinontv.com

Win four Utility Blocks ($350 value) in RV Geeks contest

At 5 p.m. PST, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, five lucky people will each win a set of four Utility Blocks, with a total retail value of nearly $350, from RV Geeks.

Here's what RV Geeks had to say about their video above:

Leveling an RV on a sloped campsite is pretty simple when you know the right steps to follow. Here's how we do it, plus we're giving away some great prizes in our latest RVgeeks Contest!

Even if you own a different type of RV, like a travel trailer or fifth wheel, some of the things we cover will apply to you, too. Plus, the prizes we'll be giving away are something that every RVer will want to win. So don’t tune out just because your RV doesn't have built-in jacks!

Your motorhome’s leveling system may be different than ours, but many of the concepts are pretty much the same. Even though we have a computerized system, we’ll be demonstrating how to level using the manual controls, just in case you don’t have an automatic mode.

On Sunday, 11/16,/2014, five lucky RVgeeks viewers will each win a set of four Utility Blocks! Enter the contest here:

If you'd like your own set of our awesome jack pads, Utility Blocks are available on eBay, sold directly from the manufacturer:

Find our excellent Camco Super Wheel Chocks on Amazon:

The intro music is my own piano performance of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag from 1899.

Be the first to hear about our new videos as soon as they're released. Visit our video blog and subscribe today!

About the RV Geeks
We offer RV maintenance, repair & travel tips from “Do-It-Ourselves” full-time RVers. We’ve handled most of our own RV maintenance during more than a decade of exploring North America.

While we’re not RV technicians, we’re very mechanically inclined and have learned a lot about RV systems over the years. We handle most of our own minor service, repair and upgrade work on our 2005 43′ Newmar Mountain Aire diesel pusher. We also maintained our 2002 39′ Fleetwood Bounder Diesel during our first 2 years on the road.

We hope our experiences can help other RVers go DIY, saving time & money while experiencing the satisfaction of a job well done.

We don’t pretend to be experts on any particular RV topic, and mostly know about maintaining our own rig. But lots of things are the same on RVs in general, and diesel pushers in particular. Consult with a professional technician if you’re unsure about working on your RV.

Nine Terrific Christmas Camping Ideas that Offer Great Memory Making Potential for Families

Editor's note: TheFamilyTravelFiles.com has just posted nine new Christmas camping ideas, each offering comfy tents, cozy cabins or lodges ideal for a winter family vacation base where having fun, sharing adventures, making discoveries, and creating memories is all part of the plan.

A cozy cabin or a special campsite makes camping at Christmas appealing to families who need time away from the commercial chaos often associated with the holiday season.

“Camping offers the possibility for fireside chats, stargazing, and a wide variety of unique experiences in a naturally peaceful setting,” according to Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for theFamilyTravelFiles.com. “Just assemble something old (comfy slippers), something new (the latest vacation app), something borrowed (a sled or a good book), and do something cool with your kids.”

The newest list of Christmas camping ideas has just been posted to the Camp Out folder featured at theFamilyTravelFiles.com. The list includes eight Christmas camping ideas, each well-suited for a family winter holiday break some in cozy cabins with fireplaces and others in tents with fire rings and one in an awesome winter lodge. The list includes:
  1. Nashville Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Tennessee: Camping with holiday lights and music. 
  2. Blue Spring State Park in Florida: Sunshine and camping with manatees. 
  3. The Ranch at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California: Horseback riding and extreme stargazing. 
  4. Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado: Sand boarding, sledding, and skiing on the dunes.
  5. Stone Mountain Georgia Christmas Camping: Homespun Christmas activities plus extreme snow tubing. 
  6. First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach: Sandy beaches, whale watching and miles of holiday lights. 
  7. Cinnamon Bay Campground on St. John: Caribbean Christmas camping on the beach. 
  8. Ohio State Parks Lodges and Cabins: Sledding, skating, and spa time. 
  9. Yellowstone National Park in Montana: Snowshoes, cross-country skiing, and Old Faithful with Austin Adventures.
More details about the Christmas camping ideas on the list may be found in the vacation planning folder “Camp Out” and additional family vacation suggestions have been posted to “Away for the Holidays” for inspiration.

For the latest family travel news follow The Family Travel Files on Twitter (@FamTravelFiles) straight from the homepage.

About theFamilyTravelFiles.com
Founded in 1998, theFamilyTravelFiles.com researches and posts family vacation idea making it easier for parents or grandparents to plan great family vacations. The website specializes in destination and planning information, family travel advice, and family travel deals. The site features a number of vacation idea folders including popular favorites – TravelPhases, Secret Places, All Inclusive, Reunions, SnowPlaces, and Away for the Holidays.

Video: 'Tow Vehicle Tires - 30 Seconds of RV Education' by RV Education 101

Here' what Mark Polk of RV Education 101 had to say about his video:
Some 1/2 ton trucks and SUVs you purchase today come equipped with P Metric (passenger) tires rather than LT Metric (light truck) tires. Mark Polk with RV Education 101 explains the difference in this short 30 seconds of RV Education video.

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Video: 'Top 5 Mistakes RV Owners Make & How to Avoid Them' by RV Education 101

Here's what Mark had to say about his video:
In this RV how to video host Mark Polk, with RV Education 101, offers his top five list of mistakes RV owners make, and how to avoid them. The list includes not stowing RV steps & TV antennas, RV height clearances, backing RVs without spotters, improperly matched tow vehicle and trailer and RV battery maintenance.

RV Education 101 e-book series
As I've said many times, Mark Polk is my favorite RV expert. I'm pleased he and his wife, Dawn, have allowed me to sell his RV e-book series. E-books (electronic books) are immediately downloaded to your computer after you make the purchase. The RV Education 101 e-book series includes:
  • "The Original Checklist for RVers"
  • "The RV Book"
  • "RV Campground Basics"
  • "101 Tips for RVers"
  • "RV Care and Maintenance"
  • "Insiders Guide to Buying an RV"
  • "Winterizing & Storing your RV"
  • "RV Awning Use & Care"
  • "Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance"
  • "RV Buyers Survival Guide"
  • "Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing"
  • "Pop-Up Basics 101"
  • "Dinghy Towing"

Showcasing the Michigan DNR: Volunteers team with Adopt-a-Forest program to clean up Grand Traverse County

Volunteers at a recent trash cleanup event in Grand Traverse County addressed
this long-time illegal dump site at the bottom of a steep ravine. (DNR photos)
Pete Laplaca has broken a sweat. He’s been stacking sheets of plywood and particle board onto a trailer and, with the assistance of a couple others, heaving large, water-soaked mattresses on top of them.

“Well, I wanted to get a workout today,” said Laplaca, an engineering consultant from Traverse City. “I thought it would be on a bicycle, but this will suffice.”

Laplaca is one of 17 volunteers who gave up their ordinary Saturday morning routines in order to help clean up illegal dump sites in Grand Traverse County.

An avid trail user who skis, hikes and mountain bikes, Laplaca has been volunteering on local trail improvement projects for more than a decade. He’s worked on widening trails, controlling erosion, and removing deadfalls. But this Saturday morning marked the first time he enlisted in an Adopt-a -Forest project to clean up the woods.

Although illegal dumping is a problem occurring on public land in many parts of Michigan, Grand Traverse County, until recently, was home to more illegal dump sites than any other county in the state, with 45 known sites on public land in the county.

Now, thanks to the combined efforts of volunteers and the Adopt-a-Forest program – a joint effort involving several agencies and administered by the Department of Natural Resources – 25 of these sites were cleaned up over the past six months and additional work is planned to address the remaining 20 before the snow flies, squarely knocking the county from the top of that illustrious list within a matter of months.

Volunteers recently partnered with Adopt-a-Forest to clean up
three illegal dump sites in Grand Traverse County. Pictured,
left to right, are Becky Beach, Craig Leppien and Pete Laplaca.
“These trash dumps have been an eyesore for years,” Laplaca said. “Nobody can figure out what to do with them,” other than cleaning them up after the fact.

And cleaning up three of the dump sites is exactly what Laplaca and his fellow volunteers set out to do on a beautiful Saturday in early October.

To accomplish their task, the volunteers initially split into separate crews to tackle two smaller sites – consisting of mostly scrap construction materials, along with some old furniture, bedding, appliances and household refuse – found near popular trails.

Following those efforts, they regrouped at a county-owned parcel that has seen illegal dumping for many years.

On an old well pad, illegal dumpers would back up to the adjacent ravine and throw the trash over the side, leaving the trash out of sight – until you walked up to the edge of the river and looked down.

Getting the stuff out of there would prove to be a Herculean task. But with a DNR fire truck, complete with a winch, the volunteers and DNR staff were able to lower a trailer down the slope, fill it with refuse, and have it winched back up.

When the cleanup was completed, DNR forest fire officer Dwayne Morse took the fire truck back to its base in Kalkaska and returned with a bulldozer to cut furrows in the pad site, making it impossible for anyone to drive up the edge of the ravine to dump trash ever again.

Craig Leppien (left) and Pete Laplaca (right) work
together to load rubbish into a trailer provided by
Leppien at a recent Adopt-a-Forest cleanup event
in Grand Traverse County.
By the time the mission was accomplished in early afternoon, the crew had filled a 20-yard dumpster with trash (well-compacted by a front-end loader provided by the county road commission).

The event was an unqualified success, said Jim Heffner, a retired engineer/real estate appraiser who brought the day’s event to fruition.

“It’s hard to get volunteers on a beautiful fall day, but we were able to come up with 17 people who were willing to come out and pick up rubbish,” he said.

The volunteers ranged from young professionals to retirees, including a financial planner and a former community college teacher.

“I enjoy being outdoors, but when I was working full-time, I didn’t have time to dedicate for volunteering,” said Paul Bolhuis, a former freight dispatcher who moved to Williamsburg from Holland after retiring. “So now it’s my chance to pay back and make it enjoyable for others.”

Craig Leppien, who brought his flat-bed trailer to the cleanup event, said he didn’t think any of the volunteers knew how big of a job they would be undertaking.

“I heard about it and I knew they were cleaning up basically my backyard so I wanted to help,” he said.

The Adopt-a-Forest program was launched in Roscommon County in 1989 by a pair of DNR employees from the former Waste Management Division (now part of the Department of Environmental Quality); the program then expanded statewide in 1991, immediately attracting partners from local, state and federal agencies, and continues today with a focus on cleaning up illegal dump sites on public land across Michigan.

“We estimate at least 200 sites are cleaned up annually, but that’s a low-ball estimate,” explained Ada Takacs, who manages the program for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “Sometimes the local community groups – such as Scout troops and hunting, ORV and ski clubs – just take it upon themselves to join in the effort and take care of organizing and funding an event without getting the DNR involved, which is great.”

More than a dozen volunteers provided the manpower to remove
 trash from the bottom of a ravine while the Adopt-a-Forest
program and Department of Natural Resources provided the fire
truck necessary to winch the trailer up the steep slope.
But, Takacs said, for those groups that want to help but are in need of some assistance – technical or financial – the DNR and the other agencies involved in Adopt-a-Forest are available to help.

“Annually we spend about $15,000 statewide on disposal costs related to these clean-up events. It can cost up to $1,400 to rent a dumpster,” she said. “But it’s worth every penny, since the in-kind services – equipment donations, free landfill space and volunteer labor – are worth much more than what we spend.”

Takacs said illegal dumping became a problem when state landfill requirements changed in the mid-to-late 1980s and townships had to close local dumps and begin routing trash to lined landfills. Citizens who were accustomed to the previous way of doing things and didn’t want to pay for the use of improved landfills began dumping illegally at a noticeably higher rate.

“Years ago when we started this program, you couldn’t drive through the woods without finding miles and miles of trash. Major, major trash piles,” Takacs said. “Now, dumping does still occur, but the piles are smaller and less frequent.”

In addition to the creation of the Adopt-a-Forest program, other changes have been made to curb the illegal dumping problem. Legislation raising the penalties for illegal dumping – up to $10,000 in fines and/or five years of incarceration – provided an incentive for paying for trash service or driving to a designated landfill. And most young adults today grew up with recycling as a societal norm.Volunteers clean up trash in Grand Traverse County.

Volunteers Craig Leppien (left) and Paul Bolhuis (right) work
to clean up an illegal dump site in Grand Traverse County.
“Disposal laws have also changed, which has addressed some of the items commonly dumped in the past,” Takacs said. “We used to see a lot of car batteries; now you turn in your battery when you get a new one, so there are fewer of those being dumped. Scrap metals have become worth more, so we very rarely find scrap metal or metal appliances anymore.”

Through the combined effect of changes in regulations and the marketplace, along with the increased efforts of volunteers like the citizens who helped with the recent Grand Traverse County clean-up, the outlook for illegal dumping in Michigan is certainly improving, but Takacs said there is still much work to be done in many counties across the state.

Anyone interested in supporting Adopt-a-Forest and being part of the solution can find more information, including a calendar of scheduled cleanup events, online at www.cleanforests.org.