Michigan Land Use Institute

Thriving Communities / News & Views / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / The Denison

The Denison

Incomparable Lake Michigan coastal treasure

March 16, 2007 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

At the wind-swept place where the Kalamazoo River meets Lake Michigan, the sand rises and falls in magnificent fresh water dunes that draw people and wildlife in equal numbers. The roughly 400 acres that lie on both sides of the river, and along nearly a mile of Lake Michigan shoreline, is so wild that dozens of species of migratory birds depend on it for a place to rest and feed. Yet it’s so close to Saugatuck and Douglas that, for generations, people have touched it in every way imaginable. Lovers rest there in the lee of steep slopes. Parents teach their young to swim in the shallows. Families hike to the dune summits to celebrate birthdays and weddings. And they spread the ashes of those who have passed.

Mike Shaw, a photographer who teaches English at Saugatuck High School, regularly celebrates this stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline, known as the Denison Property--after the family that owned it for decades. The Denison was sold last year to an energy magnate from Oklahoma City, who is preparing a development plan. Citizens, among them Mr. Shaw, have formed the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance to respond to the plan and contend with other new challenges to the region’s geography and economy. Mr. Shaw’s photographs here display in compelling detail why citizens are concerned.

Michigan Land Use Institute

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