Among the quieter attractions this year in Detroit’s Metroparks are two new spots for camping.
“We’ve had camping for Scout groups in the past, but this is much more rustic. It’s the first time we’ve created designated sites for family camping. Some, you can’t drive to. You have to walk in,” Denise Semion, Metroparks spokeswoman, told the Chicago Tribune.
One campground is to open in late June, for one weekend a month, at Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township for tent and RV camping.
Another opened Friday in Lower Huron Metropark near Belleville in western Wayne County. That’s where the Metroparks’ first campers of 2012 pitched a tent 20 minutes from their homes.
“We’re right next to the Huron River — our tent’s 6 feet from the riverbank,” Bryant Clegg, 30, of South Rockwood said.
He and Chuck Valley, 33, of Gibraltar said they hiked 6 miles Friday on the park’s nature trails before settling down to test new gear and freeze-dried foods for the major hikes they are planning this summer in Tennessee and the Upper Peninsula.
“You’re not in dense woods here, but it’s nice. We’re under three large trees,” Clegg said.
The tab? A campsite fee of $20 a night, plus a $25 annual vehicle permit ($15 for seniors) that gives access to all Metroparks, all year long. At both Stony Creek and Lower Huron, fees provide campsites with fire rings and picnic tables, modern bathrooms nearby and full access to each park, including its hiking trails and beaches.
Struck by the same downturn in property tax revenues as cities, townships and villages, the Metroparks — formally called the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority — is weathering a drop in tax revenues from $36 million in 2010 to a projected $29 million this year, according to its 2011 budget report.
To balance the park authority’s budget, “for the very first time in our history, we had to take $3.3 million from our reserve account,” Semion said.
Metroparks officials said the system attracts more than 9 million visitors a year.