National Guard expansion on Camp Grayling: Troops won’t be in your backyard

GRAYLING—In front of a packed crowd at the local community college Wednesday night, state land managers and military officials sought to allay public concerns about a plan to dramatically expand National Guard access to the Michigan Army to Northern Michigan Public Forests.

“I know we’re not going to convince everyone,” said Col. Scott Meyers, commanding officer of the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center. “I understand.”

But Meyers cited a proposed 1,500-foot buffer zone around rivers and lakes as the kind of concessions the military is willing to make to reassure area residents and outdoor enthusiasts who fear noise, environmental damage and other consequences may follow any increased military presence in the woods. surrounding Camp Grayling.

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Dismay has been simmering since early May, when Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials began notifying residents that the National Guard wanted to lease 162,000 acres of state-owned land in several counties, which more than doubled its current training grounds. The Guard says it needs the land to make Camp Grayling a year-round destination for cyber, electronic and space warfare training.

A Wednesday public meeting on the plan remained mostly civilian, with more than 200 attendees seated quietly as a moderator read written questions from the public and a panel of speakers from the DNR and National Guard responded.

Among the dozens of questions posed to the panel:

Why does the proposal not include a buffer zone around the houses?

“I have no problem adding that kind of buffer, Meyers said, as long as troops can still access nearby roads.

How much will Camp Grayling pay per acre to rent this property?

“We won’t pay for this,” Meyers said. The National Guard will lease the land for free, he said, contributing money to help cover expenses such as tree trimming and species management.

What prevents the base from using the land for other purposes in the future?

“Anything they want to do on the land they lease from us has to be vetted through our process,” said Tom Barnes, director of MNR’s Grayling Forest Management Unit.

Will cyber warfare training affect nearby cell phones or satellite dishes?

Military equipment operates on “different bands”, Meyers said, and will not interfere with signals used by civilians.

Others wondered how the expanded military presence would affect their property values ​​and the economy of towns near the proposed expanded training area. The expanded area crosses several small townships and would bring the Guard’s footprint closer to the communities of Houghton Lake and Higgins Lake. Still others wondered what kinds of environmental impacts might come from the military presence.

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