Users of several small area campgrounds are up in arms about the MNR putting an end to their use of camp sites in the district.
Residents who used Tapps Landing(Tunnel Lake), Garden Lake, Ranger Lake and Lawrence Lake campgrounds for seasonal recreational use were told they had to remove all their belongings from the campsite locations by May 31 of this year.
The campgrounds are located on Crown Land and have been leased to users over the last few decades. Users were notified in May of 2016 but an interim agreement left the campers on site while the Ministry decided the future use of the land.
“Approximately 20 years ago, the MNRF entered into Land Use Permits (LUPs) with two contractors to manage and maintain Crown Land access points. These permits expired last year and are not being renewed” said Bill May, Resource Management Supervisor Sault Ste Marie District, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Inspection of the lands in question was conducted last year according to a letter to the tenants of the campsites. The MNRF found several issues including construction of some buildings and improvements to specific sites without the approval of the MNRF. Other concerns were the improper handling of waste and sewage, the letter stated.
MNRF is aware of environmental concerns at these campgrounds, the most concerning being the improper handling of raw sewage and waste, which is also a violation of the Terms and Conditions of the LUP. MOECC has issued an inspection report with associated recommendations, which MNRF must comply with tenants were told.
“There have been significant issues of non-compliance with the Terms and Conditions of the permits which have now expired. The construction of attached decks, sunrooms, outhouses and sheds to a number of the camping-trailers at these campsites is a violation of the Terms and Conditions of the LUP.” said May in an email to SaultOnline.com
That news isn’t sitting well with hundreds of campers who have used the sites for years with little to no major problems according to members of the group who have started an online petition and set up a meeting with MNRF Wednesday afternoon at the Church street regional office.
Many of the campsite users now face the expense of removing structures at the site.
The group wants the opportunity to change and correct some of the issues that have been brought to their attention before closing their “summer homes”. They believe the MNRF is acting unfairly and organizing a grass roots approach to keep the campsites going. Many of the campers posting comments on the petition site claiming the lack of affordable camp sites available in the area.
“There are a number of other opportunities in the area for the public to enjoy camping, which also offers accommodations for trailers (e.g. over 8 private campgrounds and one Provincial Park within 100 km of Sault Ste. Marie and 32 private campgrounds within 100 km of Thessalon). Crown land camping is also available in and around the area of these campgrounds where individuals may stay for up to 21 days without approval from MNRF.”
The group is also claiming that the fees collected for the use at the campsites likely total over $200,000. “The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) charges a minimal fee for the Land Use Permit for these commercial campgrounds.” May said, ” This permit allows the operator to manage the campground and in turn charge a fee to the tenants at their discretion. Any additional fees charged to the tenants are collected and used by the LUP holder”
The campsite groups hopes to convince the MNRF to continue operating the land as campsites though May says the MNRF have other plans for the land. “The campgrounds will be closed to overnight camping for the 2017 camping season due to clean up work. After the site is restored to its natural state, MNRF will review other options for the use of the land.”
The group’s petition can be found HERE