Porkies Rescue Call: Donations needed for emergency ATV

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette To aid in backwoods rescue operations, the Friends of the Porkies is raising funds to replace vital rescue equipment.

ONTONAGON– As the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park has gained fame nationwide, visitor numbers are increasing, and with them, so are rescues.

According to a report from the park’s management, there were about 300 rescues within the last fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2016, to Oct 1, 2017. Before the increase the yearly average was closer to 100.

“The number has gone up dramatically, because the Porkies as a park has been getting lots of attention,” said Sally Berman, Friends of the Porkies president.

The park’s rescue equipment is soon going to be inadequate. To address that issue, Friends of the Porkies is raising money for the upgrades, and more funds are still needed.

The Friends, a 501(c)(3) charity, is behind many of the events and activities held in the park, like the Artist In Residence program and the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival.

“The rescue equipment they had was old and falling apart. They have a 20-year-old snowmobile that’s on its last legs, they had a 20-some-year-old wheel-a-body,” Berman said.

On the second year of raising funds for the Rescue Me! campaign has raised enough to purchase a new rescue tent and heater, as well as a new wheeled litter.

“They’re thrilled with it. It’s lighter weight, it’s titanium and the handles don’t fall off. With the old wheel-a-body, they’d get somebody on it, they’d start wheeling them out of the woods, and the handles would fall off,” Berman said. “That’s a little inconvenient.”

Now the Friends group is struggling to raise money for the snowmobile replacement, an all-season all-terrain vehicle (ATV). The ATV will cost about $28,000.

“Right now in hand we are a little bit over $9,000, maybe closer to 10,” Berman said. “We asked the village of Ontonagon to help us applying for money from the gaming funds from Lac Vieux Desert.”

Though even if granted, that funding will not be enough. The Friends is also considering applying for a grant through the Portage Health Foundation.

“The equipment is not just used in the park. They are sometimes called upon to do rescues in the surrounding Ottawa National Forest,” Berman said. “The state of Michigan has a pretty tight budget for things, and purchase of a rescue vehicle is pretty low on the list of priorities, unfortunately.”

Most state funding goes toward the state park’s operating budget and maintenance rather than upgrades.

To help with the purchase of the new rescue vehicle, donations are being accepted on the Friends website at porkies.org, or by mail at P.O. Box 221, Ontonagon MI 49953.