Dune enthusiast organizing rally; DNR lowers voucher price to $3

December 21, 2014

silver lake dunesBy Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

GOLDEN TWP. — Local sand dune enthusiast Chad Coker is organizing a rally at his Silver Lake business, Appletree Automotive, en route to a public meeting regarding the embattled Silver Lake State Park voucher system at the Golden Township Hall Monday, Jan.12, at 6 p.m.

A proposed voucher system at Silver Lake State Park has sparked an outrage among sand dune enthusiasts who feel they will be locked out of the sand dunes on the weekends and overburdened with additional fees.

Bill Loomis, who launched the opposition effort to the new system, said the new rules require dune riders to purchase vouchers for each vehicle 24 hours in advance for weekend and holiday use. A $10 voucher price was initially proposed, but the DNR recently lowered it to $3.

State officials tabled their vote on the issue Dec. 11 and have set the Jan. 12 meeting to gather more input. An online petition drive in opposition to the voucher plan, petitions.silver-lake-state-park-voucher, has gathered 3,290 signatures.

Coker is organizing a rally prior to the meeting. “I would like everyone who can to bring your off-road vehicle and plan on riding it to the meeting,” he stated. “Outside of our proposal, we need to make a statement of support.” Coker said he plans to get the road blocked for the rally.

“The voucher system was implemented in 2000 for public safety reasons,” according to a Dec. 16 DNR memorandum supplement. “Long lines of vehicles waiting to get into the Silver Lake Off-Road Vehicle Area (SLORVA) created traffic flow issues, trespass issues and the creation of an atmosphere similar to tailgating along a county road system. The voucher system assisted in resolving some of these issues.

“The voucher system creates a steady flow of traffic into the SLORVA on weekends and holidays where visitors don’t have to spend their entire time waiting in a line to get in; they simply come to the entrance gate at the time marked on their voucher” states the DNR.

“The voucher system was created to help with traffic on the weekends. However, this kept a line on Fridays. Visitors still must now wait in line to pick up vouchers for the weekend. The move to a reservation system was part of the original discussion with the inception of the voucher process. “Many SLORVA visitors continue to request a reservation system. By moving to a reservable system, the amount of traffic on the county roads would decrease and allow people the flexibility to reserve in advance without taking time away from work or home.”

“A reservation system has been discussed for several years,” the DNR statement continues. “The Department of Natural Resource surveyed its visitors in 2013. The survey asked about the visitors’ experience with the voucher system. Based on the information received, an overwhelming majority (80 percent) thought there was value to them to be assured of the use of the SLORVA prior to their arrival.”

“There are two options for people to reserve a voucher,” the DNR states. “They can be reserved online or by calling the Ann Arbor call center at 1-800-447-2757.”

“The cost of the voucher is $3. A person can reserve up to two vouchers per day. After receiving feedback from our visitors, it was decided a reduced cost of $3 would cover the cost associated with reserving the voucher.”

“The money goes to offset the cost of having a reservable voucher system. A portion of it goes to the vendor who operates the Central Reservation System. The company that operates the Central Reservation System is Camis USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Camis Inc. They are housed in Ann Arbor and provide work for up to 60 people in southern Michigan. They also handle the calls for the State of Washington’s State Park System.

“There will be a public meeting on Jan. 12 in the Oceana County area to allow individuals a chance to comment and have questions answered. As more questions or modifications come out of these discussions and public input, the department will continue to post and provide updates online and through social media.”

“Beginning in March, the six-week window for making the first voucher reservations will begin,” the DNR states. “The department will continue to review and assess the new system during the year and provide a link to a survey for our customers to provide feedback. At the end of the 2015 season, the department will review all the materials and determine if there is a need to adjust the process.”

Photo courtesy of Bill Loomis