Local livery owner participates in creation of forest service action plan

Serves as alternative to Au Sable river alcohol ban

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NORTHERN MICHIGAN — The United States Forest Service recently said banning alcohol on the Au Sable River is now being thought of as a last resort in its new, community driven action plan to better sustain the river.

The Forest Service announced its new action plan June 12 which was created with input from a community action group created after the closure order banning alcohol on sections of the Au Sable, Pine and Manistee rivers was rescinded. It focuses heavily on education of “river etiquette” to those who use the aforementioned waterways.

Member of the community work group and owner of Hinchman Acres, a local canoe livery, Craig Thompson said the group consisted of business owners and community leaders who had a broad spectrum of beliefs about what should be done on the river. He said he thinks everyone was given a fair chance to speak their mind during the meetings.

“All in all, I think it went well,” Thompson said. “It opened everyone’s eyes to what the forestry wants, and what the residents want.”

Thompson said one thing he noticed during discussion was the Pine River and the Manistee have one particular problem that he doesn’t see on the Au Sable.

“It appears the other areas have a huge littering problem,” Thompson said. “After talking to the district ranger, we don’t see that as much here.”

Forest Service media representative Nate Peeters said the workgroup was involved in nearly every step of the creation of the action plan. He said it was clear the community wants to make it known that certain behavior is expected when one uses the rivers.

“Our primary goal is education,” Peeters said. “The more we interact with people, the better it will be for everyone.”

Peeters said the forest service will be doing what it can to increase its presence on the rivers during high traffic weekends to help inform residents of what behavior is not acceptable. He said in addition to that river rules will be posted at landings and liveries, and public service announcements will be created as part of a digital public relations campaign. He said this plan is taking the place of the original alcohol ban that was announced and rescinded months ago.

“Moving forward, we see the ban as a last resort,” Peeters said. “We will exhaust all other options before we get there, but that means we need help. We need people to treat the resources respectfully.”

Thompson said he agrees with the plan the forest service put out.

“I don’t want an alcohol ban on the river,” he said. “But we do need to get a handle on some of the behavior that could be caused by alcohol. … We need to teach river etiquette, because people can’t act right if they don’t know the rules.”

Thompson said originally the alcohol ban caused multiple cancellations, and he still has to clear the air regularly when prospective customers call and ask if it’s still in effect. He said as of now he’s not sure if the alcohol ban or the poor weather so far this season is causing the lowered number of trips he’s seeing.

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