Skip to main content

Michigan National Guard Partners with DNR to Improve State Parks and Increase Accessibility

Michigan National Guard soldiers operate heavy machinery while repairing a road

LANSING, Mich. — The spirit of collaboration echoes through the woodlands and shores of Michigan's upper peninsula as the 107thEngineer Battalion (107th EN BN) of the Michigan Army National Guard joins forces with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to embark on an ambitious journey of state park improvement projects. This initiative is slated to commence in the spring of 2024, with the facilitation of the Department of Defense (DoD). The primary objectives are twofold: to elevate the quality of state park facilities and concurrently enhance the mission readiness of the Guard. In the serene landscapes of northern Michigan, Engineer Soldiers stand ready to lend their expertise to the construction and repair of infrastructure at Craig Lake State Park, nestled near Craig Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Beyond the immediate benefits of these projects lies an additional layer of purpose – an avenue for skills training known as Innovative Readiness Training (IRT). As these soldiers engage in construction endeavors, they simultaneously fortify their proficiency in the intricate art of construction, ensuring a robust skill set for future challenges.

The 1430th Engineer Company (1430th EN CO), based in Traverse City, gears up for a transformative year in2024. Collaborating with the Michigan DNR, the engineering Soldiers are slated to undertake more than eight construction projects at Wilderness State Park, located near Carp Lake in Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula. Four of these projects carry a specific request to enhance camping accessibility for visitors with disabilities, aligning seamlessly with the vision set forth by Governor Gretchen Whitmer's 2021 park improvement initiative.

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Adjutant General for the Michigan National Guard, recognizing the significant strides in collaboration, expressed, “The collaboration between the MIARNG and the DNR is a significant step towards enhancing our state parks and facilities so that all Michiganders are able to enjoy the beauty of our great state. This joint effort is a cost-saving benefit that utilizes the skills and resources available. These improvements not only benefit the state parks but also provide our Soldiers with valuable training opportunities to sharpen their skills and contribute to the well-being of the public.”

The soldiers of the 1430th EN CO, equipped with expertise in carpentry, masonry, electrical work, and plumbing, are poised to execute critical repairs to rustic cabins, usher in updates to park infrastructure, and pave the way for the installation of the DNR Gaylord District’s inaugural Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant playground at a state park of this size and scope. Rogers, commends the collaborative spirit, stating, "Our collaboration with the Michigan DNR exemplifies the National Guard's commitment to serving our communities. The utilization of our skilled engineering Soldiers from the Michigan-based 107th Engineer Battalion not only contributes to the vital repair of state park infrastructure but also allows our Soldiers to enhance and maintain their skills and proficiency, ensuring our readiness for any mission with DNR to Improve State Parks and Increase Accessibility.

For over two decades, the Michigan National Guard has fostered a robust and positive collaboration with the DNR, exemplifying a longstanding partnership rooted in mutual benefit. This enduring relationship has provided the National Guard with invaluable opportunities to utilize state lands for essential training. The DNR's willingness to support and facilitate these training initiatives reflects a shared commitment to ensuring the readiness and preparedness of the Michigan National Guard. This collaborative history underscores the effective synergy between military training needs and the responsible use of state resources, resulting in a positive and constructive relationship that has endured for more than 20 years.

In a continuation of this legacy, the MIARNG engineers have recently engaged in an innovative collaboration with the Michigan DNR through the IRT program. Launched in 2020, this innovative IRT partnership evolved when the DNR approached the MIARNG, seeking the expertise of its engineers to assist in critical projects. These projects span a range of essential tasks, including the repair of state parks, roads, water breaks on lakes, and the restoration of cabins. The IRT program, a joint effort leveraging military services and community resources, underscores the MIARNG's commitment to enhancing value and cost savings in tandem with supporting American communities. As the MIARNG's engineers contribute their skills, manpower, and equipment to these projects, the IRT collaboration exemplifies the National Guard's dedication to producing mission-ready forces while providing key services for the betterment of communities.
As a testament to the impact of this collaboration, the 107th EN BN IRT initiative, as of 2023, has resulted in saving the state of Michigan an estimated $1.8 million in labor costs. These savings, though quantifiable, are but a glimpse of the immeasurable value generated in terms of readiness, skill enhancement, and community support.

Not confined to a single locale, the commitment extends westward as the 1432nd Engineer Company (1432nd ENCO), stationed in Kingsford and Gladstone, joins the partnership. Their mission is to assist the Western UP District of the DNR with a range of improvement projects. These endeavors include the meticulous restoration of historic cabins at Craig Lake, a park favorite since 1954, and the rehabilitation of parking areas at over nine locations across Marquette and Baraga counties. The scope of their efforts spans six individual boating access sites, strategically situated between Negaunee and Champion, aiming to enhance access roads leading to Craig Lake State Park and Van Riper State Park.

Ron Olson, the chief of Parks and Recreation for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, expounded on the beneficial relationship between the MIARNG and the DNR. “The DNR Parks and Recreation Division is excited to continue our successful partnership with the Michigan National Guard to improve state parks, trails, and boating access sites. This collaboration has helped usher along much-needed enhancements, while providing valuable training for the MIARNG.” Olson continued, “The partnership with the Michigan National Guard marks a meaningful collaboration that enhances the visitor experience. It also reflects our shared commitment to serving the public.”

The MIARNG Soldiers adeptly leverage the state park improvement initiative to acquire invaluable construction and repair training through IRT projects. This training, a linchpin in the battalion’s deployment readiness, has left an indelible mark on their capabilities. In 2023, the battalion headquarters showcased their engineering and construction prowess while deployed to six countries throughout the U.S. Central Command, demonstrating the far-reaching impact of their training.

Maj. Matthew Brolsma, commander of the 107th EN BN, underscores the significance of the IRT program, stating, "The construction management opportunities presented by the DNR through IRT were truly invaluable to develop our staff prior to deployment. The ability to plan, resource, and execute projects here in Michigan refined our team’s critical skills required for engineer mission accomplishment across Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, as well as for future operations.”

As the IRT portion of the partnership with the DNR enters its fourth year, the MIARNG remains steadfast in delivering tangible assets to the state’s public spaces while concurrently building essential training readiness. Lt. Col. Lucas Lanczy, the brigade commander of the 177th Military Police Brigade and a resident of L’Anse, MI, reflects on the unique role of the National Guard, stating, “The National Guard is the only Army service component that allows you to live and serve in your local community; that is why our Soldiers join. What our engineers have accomplished with their DNR state parks partnership is a clear example of what we can do to support our state. Providing professional quality improvements in and around our hometowns while conducting Army training requirements is exactly what our focus continues to be. This project not only enhances our community but also provides invaluable training opportunities for our soldiers to hone their skills.”

The National Guard IRT program acts as a conduit, channeling military expertise to address critical projects identified by communities, providing invaluable training opportunities for service members while fulfilling essential community needs. The IRT mission provides real-world training opportunities for service members and units to prepare them for their wartime missions while supporting the needs of America’s underserved communities. The Department of Defense’s IRT program is a U.S. military reserve training opportunity that provides training and readiness for military personnel while addressing the needs of underserved American communities. Through this program, military units refine their engineering, health care, diving, and transportation skills by performing services and developing projects for communities that otherwise would not have the resources to conduct them on their own. Civil-military IRT is a partnership program between requesting community organizations and the military, therefore resource support is a “shared” responsibility. Individual IRT projects provide commanders another option to meet their mobilization readiness requirements, enhancing morale and contributing to military recruiting and retention.

The purpose of the civil-military programs is to improve military readiness while simultaneously providing quality services to communities throughout America. These programs are in keeping with a long military tradition, leveraging training to benefit both units and their home communities. They are strongly supported by The Department of Defense (DoD), Congress, the states, and communities.

Media Contact: