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No camping policy on tax-forfeited lakeshore

Becker County's Natural Resources Management office administers nearly 75,000 acres of tax-forfeited lands in the county.

No formal policy has previously existed to regulate the recreational use of those lands; the county has basically followed state policy guidelines, according to Mark "Chip" Lohmeier, Becker County NRM Administrator.

But that changed at Tuesday's county board meeting, when the commissioners passed a resolution establishing a set of camping rules for tax-forfeited forest lands.

The main reason for the change, said Lohmeier, was to restrict camping on public lands in lakeshore districts.

People are no longer allowed to camp on "county-administered, tax-forfeited forestlands that are within the shoreland district (of a lake or river), unless it is a designated campsite," according to the new policy.

According to county policy, the shoreland district is the area within 1,000 feet of an existing lake shoreline, or 300 feet from a river shoreline.

Lohmeier said the policy was established to address a concern that many county residents who live on lakeshore property adjacent to these county-administered lands are paying high property taxes to live there. Meanwhile, people have previously been allowed to camp on the county's adjacent lands -- essentially, for free.

"It's kind of a slap in the face (to adjacent property owners)," Lohmeier said. "We (the county) decided we would try to restrict that from happening."

For non-shoreland areas, camping on public forest lands is limited to a maximum of 14 days at a time, "from the first Saturday in May through the second Sunday in September," Lohmeier said. At all other times of the year, camping is limited to 21 days, he added.

"There's a lot less (camping) activity during the fall months, so we can open it up a little bit and let them stay longer," Lohmeier said. Many hunters do camp on forest lands during the hunting season, he added.

To prevent people from simply moving from campsite to campsite within the same area, staying 14 days at each site, the policy also says that if a person moves to another campsite, it must be at least 15 miles away from that site, in any direction, Lohmeier said.

In addition, people cannot camp within one mile of a designated campground without paying the required camping fees, according to the resolution passed by the county board on Tuesday.

Wood collected and used for campfires cannot be removed from the site when the campers leave, and all wood collected must be dead and lying on the ground, according to the policy. No permanent camping structures may be constructed, and no nails, screws or other fasteners may be placed in a living tree at the campsite.

There are also rules established for the disposal of human waste and sewage as well as littering.

"We still want to promote the active use of public lands -- but we want to have some avenue for controlling those activities," Lohmeier said of the purpose behind the new policy.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454