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Michigan State Park staffing shortages cause concerns ahead of Memorial Day Weekend

Michigan State Park staffing shortages cause concerns ahead of Memorial Day Weekend
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - From the shores of West to East Michigan, to the beautiful forested state parks, there’s certainly no shortage of summer fun -- but there is a shortage of those who run the fun.

It’s been a beautiful spring and the weather has a lot of people planning to spend time in Michigan’s parks. The city and parks are having trouble keeping up with demand because they’re dealing with major staffing shortages.

Related: Mid-Michigan communities find solutions to lifeguard shortage

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says staffing was already declining in 2019. Then last year, the DNR reached 90 percent of the staffing needed. But this year, Ron Olson said they’re behind.

“We’re trying to tell people you know, hey you’ve got the best environment for a summer job that you could have in a state park,” said Olson.

Right now Olson said the Michigan DNR only has about 860 spots of 1,300 needed to keep their parks running smoothly.

To make up for the lack of staffing, the DNR has hired some contractors but that doesn’t explain why fewer people are applying for what used to be a desirable summer job. Both retirees and high school students have applied less to work summer jobs.

“We just think that the whole idea of a summer job for people has changed a lot in the past probably 5 or 6 years,” said Olson.

Olson attributes that to trends but also to pay. Right now DNR summer employees make a little over $10. There is currently funding in place to raise that pay to $15 per hour. That could be part of the solution, but the DNR isn’t alone in the issue.

Emily Stevens, with Parks and Recreation of the City of Lansing, said they’ve lowered their hiring age to 16 in hopes that high schoolers will apply. Until then, they’ve had to make some changes to their summer camp programs.

The Michigan DNR said staffing shortages won’t change the quality of camping trips. They’ve changed how many campsites are in use to keep up with high demand with low staff.

“We’re also restricting our camps to only Lansing residents this year for the first time,” said Stevens.

But right now both the DNR and Lansing said they need those applications.

“It has made it hard and it breaks our hearts because we want to serve our families and make sure that there’s a safe place for kids to go,” said Stevens.

If you’re interested in working in our state parks and are 18 and above, you can find an application here.

If you’re interesting in working in Lansing Parks and Recreation and are above the age of 16, you can find an application here.

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