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I wish to call your attention to the importance of enacting legislation at this sessions, establishing a permanent encampment and maneuvering grounds for the Michigan National Guard and accepting the offer of Rasmus Hanson, of Grayling, of land for the purpose.
The great benefit of a permanent encampment and maneuvering ground has long been urged by the officers of the guard and the members of the Military Board. The Legislature of 1911 recognized this, and appointed a commission to investigate and repot upon sites suitable for this purpose. The opportunity to accomplish the wishes of the guard and the recommendations of the Military Board with one of the sites recommended by the commission and without initial expense to the State is presented in the offer of Rasmus Hanson, of Grayling, to donate fourteen thousand acres of land for the purpose.
From the information I have personally obtained and for the statements made to me by officers of the guard and members of the Military Board who have visited the Portage Lake site for the purpose of investigation, I am greatly impressed with the desirability of accepting the grounds offered by Mr. Hanson and locating the permanent encampment thereon. I am informed that the site possesses all the requirements laid down by the commission of inquiry as necessary for a military camp site; namely, good drainage, pure water, availability for small maneuvers, rifle and artillery ranges and railroad transportation facilities. It also possesses other advantages highly desirable from a military standpoint; a healthful and invigorating climate, opportunity for maneuvers and the practice of every branch of military service and continuously over practically new territory, freedom from outside influences that interfere with camp duties and discipline. A military encampment should be first of all a school of instruction, and the father that it is from outside influences, the greater will be the benefits resulting in this respect. The conditions at Portage Lake are most satisfactory.
I am also impressed with the thought that benefits other than military will result to the guard at Portage Lake. The conditions surrounding camp life there and the recreations offered to the soldiers while off duty are of the most wholesome and health-giving character, such as excursions to the forests, visits to the hills, boating and fishing in the lakes and streams.
The financial side of the proposition for a permanent encampment is very important, in view of the present condition of the State Treasury. The fourteen thousand acres offered at Portage Lake would cost nothing for original outlay; whereas other sites available would cost thousands of dollars and there would be little difference in the outlay for building and permanent improvements.
I would also call your attention to the fact that benefits other than military would come to all the people of the State, from the acceptance of Mr. Hanson's gift. A forest reserve already well established that will in time be a source of continuing revenue to the State Treasury, a game refuge where the rapidly disappearing wildlife of the State can multiply in safety, a health resort and recreation ground open to those of our citizens who on account of financial reasons would otherwise be deprived of such benefits and advantages.
I would also call attention to the fact that failure to act at this time will not remove the necessity or save the expense of a permanent encampment ground in the near future. Failure of the Legislature to accept the offer of Mr. Hanson and locate the encampment permanently at Portage Lake is necessarily a declination of the gift, and a renewal of the offer, I am informed, will not be made. It is my knowledge of this, together, with my firm belief in the present advantages of the Portage Lake site for military purposes and its great value in the future for many purposes that causes me to urge action in this military encampment matter.
Woodbridge N. Ferris