Sleeping Bear Dunes
looking north from Empire Bluff
photo from the National Park Service
credit Terry Phipps
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has completed its Final General Management Plan/Wilderness Study/Environmental Impact Statement. Proposals for several big changes are contained in the document. Already the plan has stirred up controversy in the few days since its release.
Changes that will immediately appeal to outdoor adventurers are a proposal for a 35-mile hiking trail, which will be called the Bay to Bay Trail. It will parallel the lakeshore from Platte Bay to Good Harbor Bay. Several primitive campsites are planned and it is meant to attract hikers for multiple-day backpacking trips. Nearby landowners have already expressed concerns that the trail might encroach on their properties even though no detailed route has yet been determined.
Bicyclists will also be gifted with a new trail. A $7 million dollar bike path is proposed to roughly parallel M-22 and M-109, near the highways but not on the shoulder. A crushed limestone tread is planned.
One significant change in allowed uses is that electric motors will be allowed on boats in Otter, Tucker, and Bass Lakes.
There are plans to create 32,100 acres of designated wilderness within the Lakeshore, which is about 45% of the park. This will include portions both on the mainland and islands. Concerns about this designation are being voiced, as local residents do not wish to lose access to the park. Authorities are responding that no County Roads will be closed, although some back routes of lower status may be impacted.
The Park Service has emphasized that they respect all private property rights, and have no authority over state or county roads.
Originally the area of the popular interpretive Cottonwood Trail was included in the wilderness designation. However when the public input process revealed that this trail was often used for environmental education with large groups of school children the area was removed from the proposed wilderness designation. Large group activities are incompatible with wilderness status.
See National Park Service portal to access all of the documents of the plan, including a map.
See Changes coming to Sleeping Bear?, Traverse City Record-Eagle, Nov 9, 2008
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