No alcohol ban on northern Michigan rivers this year

Feb 4, 2020

 

People looking to float and party hang out on the Pine River on a typical summer weekend day.
Credit Taylor Wizner / Interlochen Public Radio

Huron-Manistee National Forests officials say they won’t do an alcohol ban on several northern Michigan rivers this year.

Instead, the Forest Service will continue an education program that was implemented last year.

In February last year, the U.S. Forest Service tried to ban alcohol on the Au Sable, Manistee and Pine Rivers — which are federally protected waters. The agency wanted to better control dangerous, drunken behavior that was impacting the river experience.

But paddlers were up in arms over the decision, and more than 50,000 people signed a petition opposing the ban.

So the Forest Service cancelled the ban. And in its place it tried an education program developed by members of the community. The plan includes more law enforcement monitoring and education, and signs that discourage littering.

Now, the Forest Service announces it will extend the education program another year. Public affairs specialist Briana Graham says one summer wasn’t enough time to judge how well the program was working.

“Last year we increased our presence on river landings but we hope to be out there more,” she says. 

She says officials are happy some progress is being made, but says rowdy behavior continues to be a challenge.

Cadillac resident and Pine River angler Tom Jobson has mixed feelings about the new plan.

“Do I think it’s going to stop the drinking on the river and the rowdiness? It may help to some extent,” he says. “But I don’t think it’s going to cut it out.” 

Forest Service officials say they will continue to monitor the education program and may reevaluate.