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National Park Land Swap Would Violate Public Trust

Michigan Land Use Institute calls for citizens and leaders to reject proposal and to permanently protect Crystal River property with public purchase

August 15, 2002 | By Johanna Miller
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

For Immediate Release

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Johanna Miller, Policy Specialist
Michigan Land Use Institute
Phone: 231-882-4723
Email: joey@mlui.org
Web site: http://www.mlui.org/

Beulah — The Homestead Resort near Glen Arbor has for more than 15 years held hostage some of the most sensitive and spectacular wetlands on the Crystal River in Leelanau County with persistent efforts to develop it, despite environmental restrictions. Now Bayberry Properties, the resort’s owners, are at it again, demanding ransom in the form 168 acres of woodlands and meadows in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with magnificent views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan.

The resort proposes to swap 106 acres of land it owns on the Crystal River, which is difficult to develop, for 168 acres of land near the national lakeshore’s Port Oneida Historic District that it could cover with high-priced homes and facilities.

The Michigan Land Use Institute urges the National Park Service and elected officials to reject the swap and work to permanently protect the Crystal River land by adding it to the national lakeshore with an outright public purchase. The Institute’s position on the land swap is part of its overall comments on the park service’s new 20-year general management plan. Comments on the land swap and the general management plan are available at <http://www.mlui.org/>.

Reasons to Reject the Swap
The Institute opposes the land swap for two essential reasons:

  1. The park service should not give away land it has taken by eminent domain from private landowners. Such an exchange, if approved, would set a dangerous precedent of the federal government eliminating opportunity for original landowners and handing prime real estate over to later bidders. This would be an abuse of federal authority to take over private lands for legitimate public purposes and, therefore, a violation of the public trust.

  2. The proposal is a bad deal for the public. The park would add to its holdings strictly regulated, environmentally sensitive land that the Homestead Resort’s owners cannot easily develop and that is, therefore, likely to remain in a natural state. In exchange, the park would turn over for development a breathtaking stretch of woodland and meadows with magnificent views of Lake Michigan and Glen Lake — and 50 percent more land than it would receive in exchange. Development of this land for condominiums, golf courses, or other uses would permanently mar the experience of visitors to the national lakeshore.

    The Crystal River land is strictly regulated because of its environmental uniqueness and sensitivity. In July 2000, for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers settled a hard-fought citizen lawsuit by denying a permit for a golf course that the resort had proposed for the land. The resort's current plan to put condominiums on the Crystal River property faces similar scrutiny of the damage it could cause to the parcel’s extensive and unique dune and swale wetlands.

A similar effort by the Homestead Resort in 1996 to swap Crystal River land for public property in the national lakeshore also ignited fierce public opposition. Elected leaders ended that deal when they recognized that the swap would amount to a development windfall for the Resort and a subversion of the park’s public purpose.

Positive Alternative
The Michigan Land Use Institute appreciates the Crystal River property’s environmental importance and recognizes it would make a valuable addition to the national lakeshore.

Incorporating this magnificent parcel of land into the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore should be a goal of the park service’s new general management plan for the lakeshore. The Institute encourages federal lawmakers and the park service to support efforts to purchase the undeveloped land along the Crystal River from the Homestead Resort using money, for example, from the U.S. Forest Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. The resort already has stated publicly it would be a willing seller if it does not succeed in its efforts to swap its Crystal River land for prime national park land. The Crystal River property would be a unique and ecologically sensitive addition to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Keep the Crystal Clear
Citizens can stop the land swap and start the process of purchasing the Crystal River property by contacting the following decision makers. September 2, 2002, is the deadline for comments on the park’s management plan, where the swap proposal appears.

Key People to Contact

Ms. Dusty Schultz
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
9922 Front St
Empire, MI 49630
Email: SLBE_Interpretation@nps.gov

Mr. James Loach
Associate Regional Director
National Park Service
1709 Jackson Street
Omaha, NE 68102

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin
269 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-6221
Email: senator@levin.senate.gov

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow
702 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-4822
Email: senator@stabenow.senate.gov

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org