ALPENA - In an effort to prevent further damage from illegal off-road vehicle use, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is building two parking lots on a piece of state forest land south of Alpena.
The land is on Partridge Point, and covers 53 acres on its southern half, according to county records. Off-roaders have been tearing up recently exposed bottomlands, and the DNR would like to preserve the property for future use, Mark Hansen said. The forest fire officer based out of the Forest Resources Division's Alpena office said the department will build two lots by clearing areas, putting down gravel and placing large boulders around the perimeter.
One lot will be close to the road, while another is at the end of a one-lane drive through the trees. This makes for a shorter walking distance to the shoreline for hunters, as well as others who walk the property. The latter parking lot will include a gated drive to provide access for emergency access, and for fish stocking in Thunder Bay. Both are situated at two informal entrance points where drivers typically enter the land.
The solution is an attempt to stop illegal use, while keeping the land open to waterfowl hunters and others who frequent the spot, Hansen said. All ORV use on state forests, aside from on designated trails, is illegal, and those driving there recently have caused considerable damage. After clearing sod for one parking lot, Hansen walked a short distance away to show two or three paths worn into the ground by vehicles, leading to a large area that had been ground down to rutted mud. Next to it, dozens of tire tracks criss-crossed a grassy path.
Further back, Hansen pointed to a line where the waters of Lake Huron used to rise as recently as a year ago, he said. A path cut by a vehicle ran between him and an expanse of cattails.
"From this point out used to be cattails," he said, indicating the width of the denuded path. "They destroyed that much of our nesting habitat."
Aside from waterfowl, the property also serves as habitat for other animals, Hansen said. There's an eagle's nest nearby, and raccoon and coyote tracks crossed the mud in one spot.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.