The Bay City State Recreation Area in Bangor Township is one of 10 state parks around the state of Michigan piloting a new Camp Green program by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, urging campers to reduce their energy output during their stay, The Bay City Times reported.

The program began locally in June.

Park Supervisor George Lauinger said when campers arrive, they are given a checklist of ways they can help in the green effort, including turning off the air conditioning and lights in their RVs when they are not needed, using water sparingly and recycling at the park.

Visitors can send in a survey at the end of their trip to earn certification as a green camper, he said.

Lauinger said the “beefiest part” of the park’s utility bills comes from campers who come in with trailers and motorhomes.

“Many of them have a substantial air conditioning unit, a refrigerator, a microwave and all the comforts of home,” he said. “If they have all those turned on, it’s a large part of the utility bill for the park.”

Twenty or 30 years ago, there was a much larger number of tents at the park than RVs, a greener alternative, he said. Today, that ratio has flipped, although some people are switching back to tents to deal with rising gas prices, Lauinger said.

The purpose of the Camp Green effort is twofold, he added.

“We want to reduce not only our carbon footprint, but it also helps the campers,” Lauinger aid. “We could potentially increase the amount of services we have or possibly even reduce camping fees for the campers.”

Robin Julian of Bay City said she comes out to the state park to camp in her RV about four or five times a year. She said it’s important for campers to try to conserve electricity and lower the bills for the parks, especially since more than 20 Michigan state forest campgrounds were in threat of closure this year.

“Money-wise, we want to keep our parks,” she said. “We all have to help them.”

When it’s hot outside, she said she tries to find shade instead of cranking the air conditioning. The Saginaw Bay also is only a walk away, she added.

She said she occasionally sees people leave the air conditioning running in their RVs even when they leave for work, joking that the dust bunnies certainly don’t need to be cooled.

“It’s camping,” Julian said. “You’ve got to rough it.”

Harriet Finch said she and her husband are frequent campers, often going to the Yankee Springs Recreation Area in Middleville. She said she does her part to help the environment by taking care of her own trash and trying to turn off the lights.

Still, going green isn’t the first thing on her mind when she and her husband, Bernard, are camping, she said.

“When we got here, first thing, I turned on the fan,” Finch said. “I like to make it cool and comfy.”