By DAVID GREEN
Decades ago, when Lake Hudson State Recreation Area was still private property, much of the land was used for agriculture.
A portion of what’s now state land will return to agriculture next year through a new lease program.
Just under 500 of the park’s 2,900 acres will be leased. Acreage is located in three parcels—one located off Lawrence Road, one off Posey Lake Highway and the third off Tomer Road.
The successful bidder could lease all three properties or only one. Bids will be opened at
the Department of Natural Resources office in Roscommon.
Bauer cites two reasons for the program. The obvious one, he said, is to bring in needed revenue for the state park system. Each park unit in the state faces a challenge to bring in new revenue and this was Bauer’s answer. To his knowledge, this is the first agricultural lease program established.
For years a sharecropper program has operated at Lake Hudson in which, for example, a farmer plants 20 acres of corn and leaves two acres standing for wildlife.
The new program is completely different, Bauer said. Renters may plant whatever they want and harvest it all.
There is an important stipulation, however, and that leads to the second benefit for the park.
“Part of the bid package is that they will have to maintain food plots [for wildlife],” Bauer said.
Free seed from the National Wild Turkey Federation—including sunflowers and sorghum—must be planted along field edges at the width of one grain drill. The bid details will be specific about where the wildlife strips must be located.
“This will be an enhancement for hunting and wildlife activities,” he said.
Bauer said leases will be signed for a five-year period, with two one-year extensions possible. He was told the land would be very good for forage crops and could be of interest to area dairy farms.
Morenci city council recently leased undeveloped land in the industrial park for more than $100 an acre.
Bauer said he wouldn’t be surprised to hear of complaints about the program. Any time there’s a change it won’t sit right with everyone, he said. From his perspective, the move will be a plus for wildlife, both game and otherwise.
Bauer has worked at several parks in his career, but he’s developed a special liking for Lake Hudson.
“It’s really a lot different than other parks,” he said. “It has a lot of unique features.”
The on-going muskie brood lake project, the lake level control structure, rustic campsites, the night sky preserve, the uncrowded conditions—those are a few of Lake Hudson’s aspects that quickly come to his mind.
“Sometimes you like to see a place that’s quieter and more serene,” he said. “Lake Hudson is a cool park.”
Bauer mentioned a study by the National Wildlife Federation that found Americans too disconnected with the outdoors. People just aren’t getting enough contact with the natural world, he said.
Lake Hudson, with its grasslands, woods, trails, lake and night sky, could be just the answer.
As undeveloped areas continue to shrink, preserved land can only become more important, Bauer said. The likelihood of new parks coming into existence also gets smaller.
“In time, these properties’ worth will become absolutely immeasurable,” he said.- Oct. 4, 2006