June 21, 2008

Businesses Hurting From Storm Damage

By Victor Skinner, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Jun. 21--WELLSTON -- Log jams along the Pine River in Manistee and Wexford counties prompted the U.S. Forest Service to halt traffic on the waterway, something that could equate to thousands of dollars in lost revenue for some area businesses.

At Horina Canoe and Kayak Rental, Jim Horina lost hundreds of dollars in rental money since the Forest Service suspended river permits after last week's severe weather clogged the waterway with debris.

The lost income could run into the thousands if the river remains closed through the weekend, Horina said, but the biggest disappointment is to his customers.

"There are people that have driven three or four hours or farther. One group from Big Rapids had relatives coming in from ... Wisconsin and Illinois," Horina said. "I had to tell them my hands are tied until I hear from the Forest Service."

The Pine River is among a handful of areas in the Huron-Manistee National Forest closed by the Forest Service because of downed trees or flooding from last week's storm.

Crews continued to survey the river as well as trails and back roads throughout the federal lands Friday, said Kenneth Arbogast, spokesman for the Forest Service.

Roads have been cleared to most campground and recreation areas in Manistee and Wexford counties, but the popular Lake Michigan Recreation Area between Ludington and Manistee remains closed as crews work to restore the main access road that was washed out in the storm.

"I believe all of our other campgrounds are open, but people may find some county or forest service roads are closed because of downed trees or ... the erosion," Arbogast said. "We are just now starting to check the trails. We do know that several foot bridges have been washed out."

Arbogast said the Forest Service may reopen access to certain sections of the Pine River within the next week, but trails and back roads could take longer to clear.

"We are just going to have to go out and do each trail to see what condition they are in," he said.

Horina is among about a half-dozen rental businesses on the Pine River that daily send as many as 86 watercraft down the river during the busy summer season.

"I personally went down the river from Peterson Bridge to Low Bridge Wednesday. There was just one spot where you had to portage," he said. "The upper section of the Pine I guess is still pretty jammed up."

For more information on closures contact the U.S. Forest Service office in Cadillac at 779-2421 or the Manistee office at 723-2211.


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