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Bringing the Past to Life

May 1, 1999 | By Kelly Thayer
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

"Historic preservation is what the National Park Service is all about. It's one of our basic missions," says Kimberly Mann, historical architect at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Ms. Mann is part of a new generation of Park Service staff for whom it's second nature to value the historic landscape as much as the natural landscape.

At Sleeping Bear Dunes she is an investigator of sorts, perusing old photographs, interviewing descendants of property owners, and examining the historic buildings. On site, she has found old coins and snapshots that help tell the story of the area's early settlers. Based on the evidence she uncovers, Ms. Mann develops architectural drawings used to reconstruct and restore the Park's historic farmsteads, cabins, and schoolhouses.

"It's really exciting to be able to bring these historic structures back near to their original condition, especially with the help of family members who sometimes have childhood memories of the sites," she said.

Her focus includes establishing partnerships with organizations that could occupy the historic buildings in the Park and provide financial support to preserve them. She says the partnership approach is blossoming throughout the national park system, as in these other examples:

  • Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, Ohio, is implementing a leading edge program with businesses and nonprofit groups to ensure the historic agricultural area between Cleveland and Akron is preserved.

  • Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachussetts, contains an array of historic buildings and sites that includes Provincetown, where Pilgrims landed in 1620 before sailing across the bay to Plymouth. One of its preservation projects is a partnership with American Youth Hostels to preserve a former U.S. Coast Guard Station and use it as a hostel for Park visitors.

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, attracts more than one million visitors a year to a historic settlement called Cade's Cove, where the Park has preserved a 19th-century collection of log cabins, barns, smokehouses, and other outbuildings. ~K.T.

Celebrate Historic Sleeping Bear:
A Three-Day Event

Thursday, June 24, 7:00 pm
• Traverse City Opera House
Public meeting and art display on historic preservation in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore featuring John Debo, the superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in Ohio.

Friday, June 25, 7:00 pm
• Leelanau Historical Museum, Leland

Presentation on the history of North Manitou Island by Dr. Arnold Alanen, a University of Wisconsin scholar and leading expert on Sleeping Bear history.

Saturday, June 26, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
• Port Oneida Historic District (on M-22 in the Park, five miles north of Glen Arbor)

A family-oriented all-day program featuring tours of historic Port Oneida led by Park interpretive rangers, a volunteer project to paint the Charles Olsen farmstead, a hands-on barn framing program for kids, information booths from area historic preservation groups, music, fun and more!

Michigan Land Use Institute

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Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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