At 31, Sleeping Bear Dunes Gets a Makeover
Institute calls for protecting land, water, historic assets
March 15, 2002 | By Johanna Miller
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service
|The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore awes people with its rolling dunes, sweeping expanses of fields and historic farmsteads, and glittering blue water.|
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore awes people with its rolling dunes, sweeping expanses of fields and historic farmsteads, and glittering blue water.
At issue is how to protect a truly unique maritime and agricultural landscape while providing the public access to towering freshwater dunes, clear water, and thick hardwood and conifer forests.
The Michigan Land Use Institute, in July, carefully evaluated the Park Service proposal and submitted its comments. The Institute recommends the National Park Service adopt Alternative 2, which emphasizes protecting the lakeshore’s stunning and unique natural resources above any other priority. The Institute is convinced that this is the best management strategy. As northwest Michigan becomes more densely populated, it is essential to protect unique wild places and manage natural resources thoughtfully, responsibly, and carefully.
The Institute supports alternative 2 because it:
• Gives prominence to the natural integrity of the landscape and protects the unique lakeshore environment.
• Discourages activities that would irrevocably alter the natural environment, such as constructing or paving new roads.
• Continues to promote public access but does so in more centralized, highly trafficked, and popular destinations — the Dune Climb, Platte River Campground and Picnic Area, D.H. Day Campground, and Glen Haven.
• Discourages high impact activities in sensitive and unique areas of the lakeshore.
Historic farmsteads in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore tell a story of the land and give visitors a strong sense of place and more intimate understanding of northwest Michigan.
The Institute urged the Park Service to carefully consider any action that alters the natural landscape and recommended that the Park Service not build or pave more roads, or construct more facilities. The Institute also made several more recommendations to:
• Protect the irreplaceable cultural and historic resources in the lakeshore, such as Port Oneida Rural Historic Area, the Tweedle and Treat farms, and the Bufka, Kropp, and Eitzen farms.
• Continue to improve and promote access to the lakeshore’s magnificent natural areas but ensure that this does not come at the expense or the degradation of the lakeshore’s unique ecological and historic resources. To maintain one of the largest remaining dune landscapes in the country the Park Service needs to consider how some of the alternatives — including paving parking lots, building more facilities, opening up access in natural areas — will affect air and water quality and the overall environmental quality of the lakeshore.
• Consider the use of hybrid or electric shuttles between recreation areas or through the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. As greater numbers of people visit the lakeshore, alternative public transit opportunities are energy-efficient and cleaner means for bringing more people into the lakeshore without degrading its unique resources.
• Place a greater emphasis on finding creative ways to offer the public educational and interpretive opportunities in the lakeshore without constructing new buildings.
• Acquire as much property near the current park boundary lines as possible, such as the Point Betsie Lighthouse, the North Manitou Shoal Light, North and South Fox Island, Fishtown, etc.
The National Park Service is entrusted with preserving and protecting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s majestic and irreplaceable natural landscape. This is an important and challenging responsibility. But with careful planning, thoughtful management, and the support of concerned organizations and individuals, future generations will always enjoy the natural integrity of this magnificent natural resource.
Johanna Miller, a writer and policy specialist at the Michigan Land Use Institute, can be reached at 231-882-4723 ext. 16, or firstname.lastname@example.org.