GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After pushback from several groups and municipalities, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has rejected a proposal to allow Camp Grayling to operate on state-owned land.

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs had requested a 20-year lease to use more than 160,000 acres of state land around its National Guard training facility in Grayling. According to the proposal, the expanded land would be used for “low-impact military training activities.”

As part of the proposal, the National Guard would not use any permanent fencing, would not conduct any training within 1,500 feet of any river and would communicate with the public when specific areas would be closed.

“We appreciate the many comments we received on this proposal and the commitment people have to public lands,” Acting DNR Director Shannon Lott said in a statement. “Public concerns and feedback from tribal governments, coupled with our own review of the proposal, led us to decide against a 20-year lease on such a significant portion of state-managed land.”

The Grayling Charter Township Board and the Otsego County Board of Commissions each voiced their opposition to the idea. In December, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy issued an 11-page letter to the DNR encouraging them to reject the proposal because of Camp Grayling’s slow response to PFAS contamination found on site in 2016.

A map of the proposal to allow Camp Grayling to expand onto 162,000 acres of land controlled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. (Courtesy Michigan DNR)

Randall Rothe, the supervisor of remediation and redevelopment for EGLE’s Gaylord District Office, questioned whether Camp Grayling leadership could be relied upon to adequately take care of state-owned land.

“EGLE has been waiting on significant remedial progress for five years while continuing to drive further Army National Guard investigation at the state’s expense,” Rothe wrote. “During these past five years ARNG has repeatedly stated they are working to address all PFAS impact (but it has yet to fulfill those promises).”

Rothe noted that the National Guard had also ruled against extending public water access to Grayling Township and planned to pause its investigation into the site of PFAS pollution until 2024.

The DMVA issued its own release in the wake of the decision. The department still plans to apply for state land use for Camp Grayling training. However, each event will need its own separate land use permit and only 52,000 acres of land will be eligible.

“While the (Memorandum of Understanding’s) framework doesn’t meet the full vision of our original request, we believe it still provides distance and area required for some low-impact training that will help our service members stay safe and successful on a modern battlefield,” Camp Grayling commander Col. Scott Meyers stated.

Camp Grayling was founded in 1913 after about 13,000 acres of land was donated to the land for military training. It was mostly used as an infantry training center in its early days but served as a mobilization center during World War I and World War II. Camp Grayling now covers approximately 147,000 acres stretching across parts of three Michigan counties.