Au Sable community work group has first meeting

Tasked with finding solutions to perceived river etiquette issues

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CADILLAC — The community work group tasked with coming up with alternative solutions to help preserve the Au Sable, Manistee and Pine rivers met for the first time March 11.

The 16-member group was organized after the U.S. Forest Service delayed implementation of a closure order that would have prohibited alcohol within 200 feet of the aforementioned rivers. The members of the board consist of livery and campground owners, as well as private landowners and recreation enthusiasts. Local members include Hinchman Acres Resort owner Craig Thompson and Mio Pine Acres owner Brian Allaire.

Forest Service media representative Nate Peeters said the first meeting centered around asking participants for suggestions about how to ensure a respectful environment for all who use the rivers. He said it was a constructive meeting.

“I think we had a productive discussion,” Peeters said. “The work group provided more than 60 suggestions. … I think we will be able to come up with a solution that is an alternative to the closure order.”

Peeters said the suggestions recorded ranged from educational opportunities to enforcement propositions and possible public outreach campaign ideas.

“Two items received a lot of attention,” Peeters said. “The first was to embark on a coordinated public outreach campaign to promote river etiquette.”

The second item Peeters mentioned was to increase presence on the river. By that he meant not just increasing Forest Service personnel at launches, but reaching out to volunteer groups to assist the Forest Service when it is unable to be everywhere at once.

Thompson said he believes the first meeting was promising, naming three main thoughts he believed the discussion seemed to hone in on.

“It seems the biggest things they’re leaning toward right now are education, awareness and presence,” he said.

For the next meeting, tentatively scheduled for April 9, work group members were asked to come up with their five favorite ideas out of the ones proposed in order to find which ones are the most popular and discuss them in more detail. As of now these meetings are not open to the public; however, Peeters said residents are more than welcome to offer suggestions to the Forest Service by emailing npeeters@fs.fed.us.

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