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Pristine sand dunes part of 100-acre addition to Ludington State Park


Purchase to be funded by state sources, commitments from The Nature Conservancy and the Mott Foundation

One hundred acres of pristine sand dunes, wetlands and forests soon will become part of Ludington State Park in Mason County, Michigan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that it has purchased the land and mineral resources from Sargent Minerals-Ludington, LLC , commonly known as Sargent Sands, a Michigan-based company, permanently preserving this valuable property for public recreation.

The 100 acres, adjacent to Ludington State Park, are comprised of sand dunes—about 60 acres of which have never been altered. The property is located in the northern section of a larger 372 acres that have been mined for sand for decades. Although surrounded by state park land on three sides, the Sargent property is not yet part of Ludington State Park, where mining does not occur.

This purchase will permanently protect a beautiful tract of critical sand dunes, conserving a unique landform and its plants and animals for public enjoyment,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh, who approved the purchase during the Oct. 11 Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing. “We are very appreciative of the willingness of the Sargent family to work with the DNR on this purchase. Their generous actions will leave a considerable legacy for future generations.”

While active mining continues in the holding, much of the remaining land already has been mined and reclaimed by the company. The mining operation is operated on-site under a permit issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The reclamation of mined lands is a requirement of the permit, which expires Dec. 31, 2021, and can be renewed.

The $17 million acquisition of the 100-acre parcel will be funded by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Michigan State Park Endowment Fund, the Land Exchange Facilitation Fund—sources managed by the DNR or by an independent board associated with the department—and by commitments of $1 million each from The Nature Conservancy and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

“The Nature Conservancy is thrilled to help protect this beautiful property as part of Ludington State Park for all of Michigan’s residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Helen Taylor, the conservancy’s state director for Michigan.

“The Mott Foundation sees this as a unique opportunity to protect land that is truly the front door of Ludington State Park,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the foundation.

The Sargent family previously donated land to the DNR, including a portion of property at the entrance to the park. Discussions continue with the Sargent family about opportunities for the DNR to acquire additional property adjacent to the park.

The Sargent land contains sand resources, an on-site processing plant and two lakes created by the mining operations. The DNR has retained $1.3 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants as part of the cost for a potential future acquisition. Other sources, including private donations, also are being sought.

Part of the 100-acre land acquisition of sand dunes at Ludington State Park

Joe Engel, executive director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, said the land acquisition is a tremendous gift to the Ludington community and its economic future, and a fitting tribute to the efforts of the Sargent family and the DNR. “We look forward to working with the folks in Ludington, as well as others across the region and state, to secure and preserve the remainder of this amazing, Lake Michigan treasure,” Engel said.

“Ludington is one of the crown jewels of our state parks system. For millions of people who love the Lake Michigan dune coast, it is the epitome of Pure Michigan,” said Glen Chown, executive director of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. “We’re proud to partner with the DNR, other land trusts and the local community on this important opportunity.”

Chown noted that local support is crucial to leveraging a significant amount of public dollars. “We are confident that people with a deep affinity for this amazing park will generously respond to the challenge,” he said. “We are thankful for the Sargent family’s willingness to work with all of us on this important shoreline protection opportunity.”

Ludington State Park is located north of the city of Ludington between the shores of Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. The park comprises nearly 5,300 acres and contains forests, sand dunes and beachfront access to Lake Michigan. More than 1 million people visit the park every year.

According to Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief, the department will establish a public planning process to determine how present and future recreational use of the newly acquired 100 acres fits into Ludington State Park’s overall management plan. Olson said that public input, at every stage, is an important part of the DNR’s statewide park management planning process.

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Shifting Sands


A sand dune at Silver Lake swallowed up a house in April. Photo from woodtv.com.

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Reading the landscape is a development skill taught in middle school Earth science. It is taught to preschoolers by parents. Young minds are open to learning.

The local news reported advancing sand dunes are burying homes. An Earth science lessen is easily forgotten without experiential learning. The dangers of building or buying a home too close to the big lake can be seen during family or school outings. It is a gamble to determine exactly which homes will get buried.

A trip to Lake Michigan’s shoreline dune complex for a swim will be a fun outing where one can see trees buried by moving sand at Hoffmaster State Park or in other parks. Some of the trees have adaptations allowing them to produce adventitious roots from tree trunks as their original roots get buried too deep to survive. The new roots give the tree continued life under tough circumstances.

At some future date, the sand dunes will shift and uncover tree trunks, exposing the roots developed from the growing trunk that was previously high in the air before being buried. If fortunate, the tree will have lived and died before sand is blown away to expose its skeleton.

One might refer to sand dunes as a living, moving, entity, but by reading the landscape, we discover they are not. Moving dunes bring life or death to species by the lake and will crush buildings. Contractors build and sell homes close to the shoreline. They arrive, construct and leave with a profit. The buyer that did not learn to read the landscape might lose their home to the crushing weight of sand depending on where the home was built.

The news showed a cottage that collapsed under the weight of moving sand. People were interviewed about nature’s destroying power. Owners are hiring bulldozer operators to move sand to save homes and resorts. The reporters hoped the home owners would win the fight against nature’s forces.

A fight is not necessary. If the people refused to buy homes close to shore or on shifting dunes, their homes would not be endangered. Many want the shoreline view and are willing to gamble their home’s future. The result is their home might be buried or washed into the lake. A Go-fund-me account has been established to help save homes because people cannot afford to hire contactors to keep moving sand.

Learning the school lessen might have resulted in choosing to live in a safer location. In the 1980’s I observed homes falling into Lake Michigan when high lake levels undercut foundations. I witnessed multi-million dollar homes fall into the Pacific Ocean as erosion undercut cliffs. The homes were too large to move and should not have been built close to the ocean.

Homes are built on barrier Islands along the Atlantic Ocean even though barrier islands are known to move and wash away. Classroom education is valuable but field trip experience is essential for learning to read the landscape. Book learning requires supplemental practical experiences to learn to read the landscape. That is the purpose of places like the Howard Christensen Nature Center and for parents to take families to natural areas.

I began as director at HCNC in 1986 when an Environmental Education Advocacy Council and School administrator agreement required some Kent ISD teachers to bring students to HCNC. I was told HCNC was securely funded by property taxes. As time passed, and shifting sands of education politics changed. I was told environmental education was no longer a priority in America after the early 2000’s presidential election. The Kent ISD stopped funding HCNC. An impact of that decision might result in students losing their homes to nature’s forces when they are grown. We are in a phase of political temperament again when many want to focus only on the present without considering the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental impacts for the future. Economic health cannot be sustained without social and environmental sustainability. Security in our personal nature niche depends on the shifting sands of politics and how well people learn to read the landscape to protect their wellbeing and investments.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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