Communities, Forest Service to look for options
On February 1st the edict came out regarding the use of alcohol on rivers that traversed the National Forest. Sections of the Manistee Pine and Au Sable rivers would be seeing an alcohol ban from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
With a fine of up to $5000 for an individual and $10,000 for organizations found to be in violation of the order.
Then came the outcry as citizens and business owners opposed to the new rule filled the pages of social media, created petitions and drew supportive responses from their state Reps.
Thus, on February 12th the organization released this statement:
“The Huron-Manistee National Forests will delay implementation of a closure order prohibiting alcohol on sections of three National Wild and Scenic Rivers until at least 2020. The delay creates an opportunity for the Forest Service to work with local communities to develop alternative means of restoring public safety and preventing damage to congressionally-protected sections of the AuSable, Manistee, and Pine Rivers.
“Individuals and businesses throughout northern Michigan have expressed strong interest in partnering with the Forest Service to address ongoing public safety and environmental issues on our National Wild and Scenic Rivers,” said Leslie Auriemmo, Huron-Manistee National Forests Supervisor.”We welcome a practical community driven solution to these challenges.”
Auriemmo has come under fire for her part in ordering the ban, the prohibition option of addressing what the Forest Service refers to as “persistent public safety issues.”
While the closure is not completely off the table, the Forest Service will work with the communities to come up with an action plan to restore public safety to these rivers by May. During the summer the action plan would be implemented and if conditions don’t improve the Forest Service will consider bringing back the ban in 2020.
The work group will be made up of local businesses, officials and citizens from along the three river corridors.
Though the Muskegon, a paddler paradise and tuber treat, is not currently part of this discussion it is an issue that has certainly been addressed in our area and with a collective effort among townships and the city of Newaygo, law enforcement and the community, weekends along the Mighty Mo have become more family friendly without requiring the implementation of a ban on adult beverages.
Rachel Wisner’s family has been sending people down the Muskegon in a variety of crafts for half a century. We asked the proprietor of Wisner Rents Canoes if she would care to comment on the efforts by the Forest Service to impact the issue and she most graciously agreed to do so.
“I know for a fact that it can be done. The Muskegon River used to be way worse but thanks to the DNR, Newaygo County Sheriff's Department, City of Newaygo Police and Muskegon River Watch (and, of course, those people who called in on the "River Jerks") it has improved substantially.
As the Owner of Wisner Canoes, we get plenty of customers that want to consume alcohol while floating the river. We also have just as many that don't. There is room for both. You just really need to remind people to respect the river, the property owners (even if it is State land) and each other - it really isn't that complicated but it did take some serious cracking down for quite a few years before it has mellowed out. Maybe if everyone, I mean EVERYONE- including people who paddle sober and people who like to have drinks ALL start taking stock in their own group in how they are acting and behaving, whether it be swearing around others, littering, arguing, trespassing... just bring a River Jerk... and say NO. Not let YOUR group get out of hand and each group take care of their own and it will make the whole summer a better place.
And wouldn't it be great if the other group paddling by had no reason to get their bathing suits in a wad and could just smile, wave and say 'peace, love. float'?
That is livin' my dream…”
Thank you Ms. Wisner
Any thoughts folks?
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