Pictured Rocks
An Administrative History
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If the first eight years of the history of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore could be described as an era of big plans and limited funds, the period from 1974 to 1981 was a time of neither grand development schemes nor lavish budgets. It was an interregnum during which the park promised by Park Service planners was slowly replaced by the hype of park that was sustainable by agency budgets and by the north woods-lakeshore environment. It was a time of coming to terms with the limits of development at Pictured Rocks. It was a low point for Park Service-community relations, but also a point of departure for planning a new, more realistic, recreation area.

Declustering the lakeshore

The most positive action taken by the Park Service during the period from 1974 to 1981 was the break-up of the Isle Royale-Pictured Rocks management cluster. The break-up was occasioned by an even bigger administrative shift, the transfer of jurisdiction for Pictured Rocks from the Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia to the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska.

The regional shift was effective March 1974 and was part of a general reorganization of the federal government led by the Nixon Administration. In an effort to create compatible regional structures among all federal agencies, the Park Service's system of regional offices was overhauled. The old Northeast Region was restructured. Its empire was divided among the newly created Mid-Atlantic Region with headquarters in Philadelphia, and the North Atlantic Region with offices in Boston. The Great Lakes parks in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio were detailed to the Midwest Region as compensation for the loss of crown jewels such as Yellowstone National Park to the new Rocky Mountain Region. The idea was to create smaller, more cohesive regions which would be responsive to the needs of their units. By and large the plan worked to the betterment of management at Pictured Rocks, Although a headquarters in Chicago rather than Omaha, prevented by heavy lobbying from the Nebraska congressional delegation, would have made for more efficient intra-regional communication. [178]

The timing of the shift was fortuitous for the new Great Lakes parks. History already "ruled the roost" in the old Northeast Region and with the Bicentennial of American Independence approaching, the new lakeshores would have remained low priorities. Within the newly configured Midwest Region, the Great Lakes parks moved from the periphery to the center of the regional office’s concern.

The regional reorganization was the appropriate time to restore Pictured Rocks' managerial independence. clustering the lakeshore with Isle Royale had been driven by the need to save money by reducing Pictured Rocks' personnel ceiling by one: the superintendent. The idea was that the staff of Isle Royale would be able to perform an additional service function for the shorthanded personnel of the lakeshore. The only result, however, was to create another layer between Pictured Rocks and the region. General Superintendent Hugh Beattie split time between both units, but it was inevitable that a park as large and complex as Isle Royale soon took up the lion's share of his time. Beattie spent frequent nights driving between Houghton and Munising, but was never fully engaged with Pictured Rocks issues after the cluster was established.

The cluster was based on faulty logic of geographic proximity. Certainly Pictured Rocks and the Isle Royale headquarters in Houghton, Michigan, were close to each other. But Isle Royale itself remains to this day one of the most remote parks in the lower forty-eight states. It is separated by more than fifty miles of Lake Superior waters from Houghton. The task of opening the island each spring and closing it every fall was a major undertaking requiring close supervision by the superintendent. With extreme weather conditions compounding inter-park travel, Beattie estimated that between "20 to 25% of his efforts are inefficient or nonproductive." With Pictured Rocks struggling for even basic operational funding, Beattie put an emphasis on maintaining a high level of operations at Isle Royale. In 1971, he transferred Pictured Rocks' highly competent Chief of Maintenance to Isle Royale in order to make full use of his talents. [179]

Chief Ranger Norman Davidson operated as the "Park Manager" when Beattie was at Isle Royale. This gave him the responsibility for day to day management, But no authority to speak for the lakeshore to either the public or the region or to establish and carry out management priorities. In 1971, Beattie complained to Lon Garrison, the regional director, that the ambiguous relationship between the General Superintendent and the Park Manager was "an impediment to the development of a complete and responsible on-site management team which could be fully conversant with day-to-day situations and also take, quick, decisive and forceful action." Beattie advocated either elevating Davidson to the position of superintendent or bringing in a new GS-12 superintendent. This later recommendation was rejected in 1971, and again in 1972, but with the reorganization of the old Northeast Regional office the agency finally accepted Beattie's plan and a new superintendent was assigned to the lakeshore. [180]

The choice was Robert L. Burns, public affairs officer for the former Northeast Regional Office. Pictured Rocks became available for a Superintendent because of the departure of George B. Hartzog from the directorship of the National Park Service. Hartzog had blocked all previous efforts to decluster the Isle Royale and Pictured Rocks. But on December 31, 1972, Hartzog was forced to resign. With his opposition removed and the position ceiling at the lakeshore lifted, the way was cleared to offer Burns the post. Burns was a likeable World War II veteran who had put in thirty varied years working for the agency. He had been a successful superintendent at Nez Pierce National Historical Park and at Perry's Victory. The bulk of his management experience had been at small historic parks. [181]

Burns and Pictured Rocks were an unhappy fit. The lakeshore needed savvy, aggressive leadership to make up for its stunted beginnings and to fight for the lakeshore's place at the table of the newly reconstituted Midwest Region. Burns, on the other hand, was nearing the end of his career and was not looking for a reconstruction job. Yet the situation he inherited in Munising was far from comfortable. His Chief Ranger, Norman Davidson, was very disappointed that he had not been given the superintendent's position, after having labored for years in the difficult role of Park Manager. Burns also inherited a community relations problem. Alger County residents were disillusioned and bitter about the lakeshore after eight years of minimal park development. And finally, Burns found himself trying to manage a perennially underfunded park. Burns would have a rocky tenure at Pictured Rocks trying to address these and other issues. [182]

The new superintendent learned how difficult his job was by trying to tackle the lakeshore's budget problems head-on. Within days of arriving in Munising Burns was on the phone with the new regional office, trying to get his budget increased. He was aided by the Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission which had prepared a comparison of staff and funding between Pictured Rocks and the other lakeshores. Apostle Islands, for example, was created in 1970, four years after Pictured Rocks, yet it had a larger and more experienced staff than Pictured Rocks. Whereas Burns was assisted by a single GS 5 administrative clerk, the superintendent of the neighboring Wisconsin lakeshore was aided by a GS 11 administrative officer and a GS 4 clerk. While Burns made do with a single GS 9 Ranger, Apostle Islands had two as well as a GS 7 Ranger. The obvious conclusion was that "Pictured Rocks lags far behind Apostle Islands in both quantity and quality." Comparisons with Sleeping Bear and Indiana Dunes were even more unflattering. [183]

Yet Burns was advised that due to an agency-wide fiscal crunch and the cost of the looming Bicentennial of American Independence no adjustments could be made in favor of Pictured Rocks. Even the superintendent's insistence on an additional $25,000 for emergency construction work was refused. On the contrary, Burns was barely able to fend off a move to cut his full-time staff from five to four. An aggressive superintendent would have taken this rebuff as merely an opening round in a long-term fight to improve his park. But Superintendent Burns took pride in being a team player; he would not "rock the boat" with incessant demands. He would make do with what he had. [184]

One of the features of Superintendent Burns's tenure at the lakeshore was a general disengagement from Omaha and the inauguration of a detached management style. At its best, this resulted in an entrepreneurial approach to development, with the lakeshore learning how to make do on its own, rather than wait for action from the region. With only minimal funds, for example, the maintenance division succeeded in cleaning up and improving visitor access at Munising Falls and removing extraneous facilities at Miners Falls. In later years Burns's independent style went so far as to refuse offers of assistance. After one meeting with Associate Regional Director John Kawamoto Burns was asked "what do you need?" The answer was nothing. The downside of this approach was a lack of attention to agency procedures such as Section 106 review prior to construction projects in known areas with known cultural resources. Burns became hostile to suggestions that seemed to impinge on the lakeshore's freedom of action. This was extended to the Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission, which could have been a partner in building the management team in Munising, but was instead held at arm's length by Burns. Its meetings were infrequent and seldom focused on solving genuine problems. [185]

The Bicentennial Living History Program at Sand Point was a good example of the strengths and weaknesses of Superintendent Burns's independent style. A mock "pioneer village" was built near the old Coast Guard buildings. Park interpreters and the wives of several of the staff donned period costumes and manned the exhibit for six weeks. They demonstrated early American crafts and folkways. The local press and park visitors alike praised the quality of the program. There was considerable sentiment in Munising that the program continue after the bicentennial. The regional office congratulated Burns on a "stimulating and rewarding exhibit," but could not countenance its continuation as it did not represent a scene "typical of the history of the Michigan Northwoods." Rather than recreate a colonial village, the lakeshore with better planning might have presented a "valid historic scene such as voyageurs, fishermen, iron smelter, or other bona fide, Pictured Rocks-oriented historical activity." [186]

Under Superintendent Burns, the staff of the lakeshore did not receive adequate supervision and direction. An operations evaluation described the lakeshore's general administration as "delegation by abdication." Many on the small staff complained of "the lack of SOP's [standard operating procedures]" and "established routines." Fiscal controls were weak, with blanket purchase orders issued on a regular basis. The superintendent’s management style was described as "fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants." [187]

One publicly obvious sign of administrative drift at the lakeshore were three exhibits installed at Munising Falls by lakeshore ranger/interpreter Bruce Peterson. The purpose of the text was environmental education, yet the message was couched in biblical terms more in keeping with the ranger's personal religious beliefs than generally accepted scientific theories. Hugh Beattie, who headed the 1976 operations evaluation team, described the exhibits as presenting "a view of nature which is not entirely shared by the various religious peoples of the world and is not shared at all by the nonreligious." Ranger Peterson reported many favorable visitor comments on the text. Beattie deemed the text "inappropriate" and strongly urged it be changed. Burns found the whole issue a "matter of opinion" but agreed to change the text. In Munising one critic commented that the lakeshore appeared to be run by "religious zealots." [188]

The lakeshore also suffered because Superintendent Burns was disengaged from the community. Unlike Beattie and Davidson before him, Burns did not purchase a house in Munising. Instead he settled on an isolated farm near Rock, Michigan, where he and his wife raised sheep. Although Burns joined the Rotary Club in Munising, he was not an active member. Burns’s reserved and gentlemanly personality was misperceived as aloofness by Alger County residents. To the superintendent, the people of Munising seemed to form a closed society. As individuals, he found them "hard to get close to." The result was that while Pictured Rocks finally had its own Superintendent, the lakeshore did not have a higher profile in the community. The Superintendent’s manner often put people off as officious. Burns once responded to an editorial critical of the Park Service in the Munising News by writing: "Thanks…I hope your next editorial will at least have the spelling accurate." Burns could have been better supported by his deputy, Chief Ranger Davidson. Unfortunately, public affairs was not his strong suit either. Perhaps out of resentment for being passed over for promotion, Davidson took little initiative under the Burns regime. The impression created in 1968, when Beattie was removed, that the lakeshore had been downgraded by the Park Service, continued through most of Burns’s tenure. In the Alger County community there was little warmth left in the reservoir of good-will toward the Park Service when the Beaver Basin controversy erupted. [189]

The Beaver Basin Controversy

In 1974, the Wisconsin-Michigan Pipeline Company transferred its 1,308 acre corporate retreat to the control of the lakeshore. According to the 1966 agreement between the agency and the company, Wisconsin-Michigan had the right to operate the Big Beaver Lake property for another nineteen years. The company's sudden change of heart gave the lakeshore control over the entirety of the Beaver Basin, a self-contained ecological unit that had been part of every Pictured Rocks park proposal since 1924. The basin was prized as Class V, Primitive, due to its wild, largely undeveloped character. The master plan called for the eventual removal of the corporate complex and the establishment of a campground and boat landing in the area. The master plan, however, could not prepare Burns and his staff for the ecological issues raised by the unexpected acquisition of the Wisconsin-Michigan camp. [190]

Beginning in 1959, pipeline president R.T. McElvenny ordered the staff at the camp to provide feed for the basin's large white-tail deer population. Up to eighty tons of commercial deer feed were distributed each year in an effort to ensure superior hunting conditions for the guests of the corporate resort. When the lakeshore assumed management of the tract in 1974, Burns was forced to deal with the results of fourteen years of environmental manipulation. It was against Park Service policy to maintain feeding programs. To commit public funds to support a species as Naturally numerous as the white-tailed deer made no public policy sense. Yet to allow hundreds of deer to go without any feeding could result in a large number of carcass littering the forest floor and trees damaged by over-browsing. [191]

Both the lakeshore and the regional office approached the problem as a simple resource management issue. It was decided to manage the die-off gradually by eliminating the majority of the feed. Twenty tons of feed were scheduled for distribution. Lloyd Fanter of Northern Michigan University was contracted to monitor the process. He was to estimate the winter mortality, determine the availability of natural browse, and estimate the overall size of the area's deer population. For two winters, 1974-75 and 1975-76 the lakeshore provided twenty tons of feed. Unfortunately Fanter's research indicated no reduction in the Beaver Basin deer herd. What was clear, however, was that over 600 deer were occupying an area naturally suited to no more than 150 white-tails. [192]

Many Alger County sportsman were critical of the lakeshore for trying to reduce the herd. A smaller element of the public protested in the name of animal cruelty. Wild rumors about deer being driven off the cliffs to their death or being strangled by automatic tagging devices reduced the credibility of the agency in Alger County. In the face of this, the agency made a mis-step when it announced in November 1976 that a special deer hunt would be held in Beaver Basin. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which shared the job of regulating fish and game within the lakeshore, initially concurred with the plan. The plan was to allow thirty-five hunters access to the area for a three-day period. Each hunter would be allowed to harvest a single deer. At the end of the three days another thirty-five hunters would be granted special permission to hunt. The proposed special season was to run from mid-January to the first day of March, or until three hundred deer were taken. Public reaction was adverse, in part due to press accounts which made the hunt sound like a turkey-shoot for lower Michiganders. The Alger County Board and the Munising-Alger County Sportsman's Club strongly opposed the plan of a one-time hunt. To them it seemed like the lakeshore was acting to remove a long-term recreational resource in a manner which would have limited benefit to the community. Upper Peninsula representatives in the Michigan legislature shared that concern. On December 15, 1976, they passed a resolution condemning the special deer season at Pictured Rocks and directing the Department of Natural Resources to devise an alternative proposal. Of more immediate impact was a court action by the club which led to Delta County Circuit Judge Clair Hoehn issuing an injunction against the hunt. [193]

The Park Service argued the hunt was a necessity because it had cut the amount of deer feed in the basin from twenty to thirteen tons. Judge Hoehn's injunction was provisional, providing the Alger County Commissioners secure supplementary feed for the deer, to prevent a massive deer die-off while the court considered the suit. With the assistance of the Sportsman's Club, the county took on the task of feeding the deer. The Alger County groups also commissioned their own study of the deer population, under the direction of Raymond Reilly of Lake Superior State College. [194]

That winter, Beaver Basin was the scene of intense snowmobile activity as the sportsman hauled in deer feed and curious citizens caravaned in to see the much studied deer for themselves. In an effort to regain control over the area, the lakeshore began, in March 1977, to issue citations against feeding the deer. That action sparked a lot of loose talk of challenging the park rangers in a direct confrontation. Charles Wilderspin, president of the Sportsman's club and another member were eventually convicted and fined by a federal district judge for violating national park policy. This action succeeded in reducing the sportsman's feeding activities.

The most important result of the sorry mess was a much-heightened level of bitterness between the lakeshore and the community. Alger County and the Sportsman's Club ended up engaged in their own court battle over who was required to pay the $27,000 allegedly spent feeding the deer. The deer suffered through a devastating winter as nature, ignorant of injunctions, solved the problem its own way. Researchers hypothesized that the die-off was much higher than if the hunt had actually been held because over-population led to a further reduction in the area's natural food supplies. The small herd of one hundred or so survivors avoided the site of the unfortunate feedings. Within two years the Beaver Basin deer population was back to a sustainably low level, marking an end to a sad affair. [195]

Origins of the Alger County/Pictured Rocks Task Force

The Beaver Basin controversy marked the low point in the history of the lakeshore. The fate of the deer herd became a vent by which Alger County residents could at last let loose their frustration over the lack of development at Pictured Rocks. But once brought to the surface, that bitterness and mistrust was slow to dissipate. A virtual cold war followed. The strongly independent streak in the character of upper Peninsula residents became aroused and the routine regulatory tasks of lakeshore rangers became more difficult. A simple citation frequently led to verbal confrontations. Superintendent Burns adopted the peculiar habit of changing out of his class A uniform and into civilian clothes before leaving the office. Even if he was just going to pick up mail or have lunch he changed out of his uniform before going into town. "There's no advantage or need for me to wear my uniform when I go to town," Burns said when he was criticized for doing this by the regional office. "Everybody there knows that I work for the Park Service." Rangers endured cold shoulders, hostile stares, and not infrequent harangues in the course of everyday duties in both Munising and Grand Marais. As one veteran ranger recalled, "We got used to taking a lot of flak.'' [196]

The volume of complaints about the lakeshore were eventually heard by Congressman Philip E. Ruppe, the Republican representative for northern Michigan. He had been a less-than-enthusiastic supporter of the lakeshore in particular, and federal activism in general. The creation of Pictured Rocks had been the last act of Raymond Clevenger's brief congressional career. As his successor, and a member of the Republican minority in the House, Ruppe was not personally committed to the lakeshore. The agency's uncertain beginnings at Pictured Rocks did little to engage his attention. In 1973, when the Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission was pushing hard for park development, Ruppe "let the chance pass" to go before the House Appropriations Committee, much to the frustration of Senator Philip Hart's staff which had been trying to increase the lakeshore's appropriation. In 1974 and 1975, successful liaison between Hart and Ruppe's offices succeeded in adding to the budget the money needed to complete the development of Miners Castle. In late 1976, just as the Beaver Basin controversy was reaching a pitch, Senator Philip Hart died of cancer. With Hart gone and Alger County complaining loudly, Ruppe became more involved in Pictured Rocks affairs. [197]

Ruppe went directly to National Park Service Director Gary Everhardt to try and speed development at Miners Castle. The director admitted "our record is dismal" and promised not to allow "any more slippage to occur." Ruppe remained a critic of the lakeshore, if only because he continued to get complaints from Alger County. A public meeting in Munising in October 1976, gave Ruppe a clear idea of the depth of hostility that had been building over the lakeshore. In November 1976, while the Beaver Basin crisis smoldered under the surface, Director Everhardt instructed the Washington and regional offices to meet with the congressman to explain the status of the project. At the meeting Ruppe expressed little interest in the Park Service's actual plans. His complaint was that his constituents were complaining. He offered no specifics of what citizens wanted but he was insistent that "the locals didn't feel they were being heard." He accused the agency of failing to "open up planning and decision making to suggestions and discussion by local residents." The solution he suggested was to prepare a new master plan for the park. He shrugged off the suggestion that a new plan would further slow the pace of development with the politically expedient observation that if a new plan was developed "at least something would be happening." [198]

The agency was able to dodge Ruppe's initial call for a new master plan. But the firestorm over the Beaver Basin special deer season gave Ruppe evidence that the agency had a major public relations problem at the lakeshore. Ruppe again went to Everhardt, this time sharing his request for a new master plan for the park. Ruppe demanded a forum which would "involve heavy participation on the part of the local citizens in the planning and decision-making process." [199]

The Midwest Regional Office was coming to the same conclusion as Congressman Ruppe, but via a different route. Regional planners had been rather slow to involve themselves in the development of Pictured Rocks. They were aware that there might be problems with the master plan because a similar development-intensive master plan for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore had aroused a firestorm of local criticism. Because of that crisis, Indiana Dunes (to the expense of some of the other lakeshores) received considerable attention during the mid-1970s. While this was going on the staff of Pictured Rocks were voicing their uneasiness with the environmental consequences of the master plan. As early as 1973 Norman Davidson had advocated a major overhaul in the Pictured Rocks plan. Certainly before the lakeshore could proceed with building the scenic drive, a feasibility study and an environmental impact statement would be needed. [200]

The idea that this process should be folded into an effort for broader public impact made sense after the 1976 operations evaluation of the lakeshore. The inspection had been led by former Pictured Rocks superintendent Hugh Beattie. In the course of the evaluation visit, he accompanied Burns to a meeting called by Munising city manager James L. Williams to try and get area and federal governments to develop interagency plans. Eight years before Beattie had been involved in a similar effort. He was shocked to see how little communication now existed between the lakeshore and local government. The meeting was a graphic demonstration of how the former climate of cooperation had degenerated into an adversarial relationship. Beattie strongly recommended that the lakeshore, under the leadership of John Kawamoto, the Associate Director of Planning and Resource Preservation in the Midwest office, reengage the park in regional planning. [201]

At the June 1977 meeting of the Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission D. Gregory Main of the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (CUPPAD), who led the initial planning effort in 1968, submitted a detailed proposal for the creation of a task force of representative officials and citizens to undertake a "systematic examination of the issues, problems, and opportunities facing the area, the development of viable solutions and means of their implementation, and extensive efforts to communicate with the general public." The task force would be headed by CUPPAD with the cost shared by local and federal agencies. The advisory commission embraced Main’s plan and recommended strong cooperation by the Park Service. [202]

The National Park Service adopted a two-track approach to Pictured Rocks planning. In September 1977, the agency entered into a cooperative agreement with CUPPAD to accomplish a joint planning effort through a Alger County/Pictured Rocks Task Force At the same time the agency initiated the preparation of a new General Management Plan (formerly master plan) for Pictured Rocks. The General Management Plan would be prepared by a team of federal employees representing the lakeshore, the regional office, and the National Park Service's Denver Service Center. It was hoped that the "two planning efforts would be of a complimentary nature." [203]

The Task Force began its work in October 1977 with five specific goals:

1. Develop an appropriate, affordable road plan for the lakeshore area.

2. Determine public facility needs.

3. Determine what land use regulations were needed for the lakeshore area.

4. Promote public participation through providing appropriate background information.

D. Gregory Main organized the Task Force into a series of working committees, scheduled twelve monthly meetings, and gave the group a deadline of one year to come up with a final report. Superintendent Burns and John Kawamoto, of the regional office, represented the Park Service on the Task Force. [204]

The General Management Plan team began work in September 1977 with a weeklong visit to the lakeshore designed to familiarize the members with the resource. Lawrence F. Knowles of the Denver Service Center was the initial team captain. The planning process was scheduled to take three years. Regional Director Merrill Beal charged the team with reassessing the "suitability, feasibility, and desirability of a scenic shoreline drive called for in the authorizing legislation." In keeping with the new environmental principles reflected in the 1964 Wilderness Act Beal also directed the team to determine if any areas of the lakeshore should be recommended to Congress for wilderness designation. The regional director stressed that throughout the planning effort "a high degree of public involvement will be sought." [205]

In keeping with Beal's instructions, the General Management Plan team concluded their initial trip to the lakeshore with a public meeting in the Munising Community Building. They got an ear-full of the bitterness and mistrust that had built up in Alger County. As the ranking National Park Service representative present, Superintendent Burns was particularly singled out. The issue which was most frequently cited as an example of the failure of the National Park Service was the scenic shoreline drive, a feature specifically mentioned in the authorizing legislation. The agency hoped that by planning in partnership with the Task Force, it might dissipate some of the community's ill will and enlist local support for a park road which would respect the environmental assets of the Pictured Rocks area. [206]

The first formal meeting of the Alger County/Pictured Rocks Task Force more than met the expectations of the National Park Service. Greg Main had already established a Access and Circulation Committee which presented the group with a list of preliminary objectives for the Pictured Rocks road system:

1. It should be possible to construct in the very near future.

2. Meet the needs of lakeshore visitors, landowners, forest products industry, and residents.

3. Prolong the stay of lakeshore visitors.

4. Encourage private investment in facilities to serve visitors.

5. Be located and constructed to minimize adverse social, economic, and environmental impacts.

These preliminary objectives pushed the Task Force away from the extreme position of many local residents, that the scenic shoreline drive requirement should be met by pushing a high-speed road along the top of the cliffs. Instead the notion of the park road as a low speed route largely using existing alignments, a more modest environmental impact, became the preferred alternative. The road issue was by no means settled at that first Task Force meeting, but those advocating major new developments were forced into an uphill battle. [207]

The General Management Plan team also made the park road a priority. Much of the team's early work was spent reviewing the legislative history to determine the intent of Congress. They concluded that the legislative provision for a scenic shoreline drive referred to a low speed, park interpretive road. No specific alignment of the road was mandated, giving the agency "reasonable latitude in location of the road." Confusion over the nature of the road mandate was widespread. At both Task Force meetings and public meetings, it was clear many people confused the park road with the much discussed South Shore Scenic Drive, a highway proposed by the Michigan Highway Department in the 1960s to run from Detour to Munising. The elevated, expectations concerning the park road flowed from the image of a moderate speed, trans-peninsula tourist route. While the latter road was a more appealing prospect for many on the Task Force, it had never been funded by state officials. The realities of the planning process brought most members back down to what could be funded by the National Park Service and the local governments. [208]

In April 1978, the General Management Plan team presented the Task Force with seven possible access and circulation schemes for the Pictured Rocks area. Each one was based on utilizing to some extent the existing road system and limiting new construction. This caused a major split in the Task Force. Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company used its influence and what one member called "fed-baiting speeches" to push the group toward a shoreline road. For three months every attempt to resolve the issue by ballot resulted in a deadlock. Finally, in September the Task Force accepted the plan to follow the alignment of County Road H-58 most of the route between Munising and Grand Marais. As a compromise, paved spur roads would be added to Miners Castle, Chapel Lake, Little Beaver Lake, Big Beaver, Au Sable Lighthouse, and the Log Slide. The park road would be rerouted south of Grand Sable Lake to avoid cutting into the toe of the dune. This plan was quite a step back from the vision of a cliff-side drive. But it was accepted because of its practical advantages. The soft, wet ground of much of the lakeshore area was not conducive to highway construction. An effort by Task Force and Denver Service Center members to trace out another route in June 1978, had resulted in four-wheel-drive vehicles hopelessly bogged down. Local Task Force members knew the nature of the topography in the shoreline zone and most accepted that H-58 right-of-way made the most sense in the western and central portion of the park. As a compromise to those who wanted a shoreline road, a new alignment would strike out from H-58 at Legion Lake and run behind Twelve Mile Beach to Au Sable Point, where it would resume following the H-58 right-of-way. More new road construction than this, even Alger County representatives had to admit, would require "several life times" due to likely opposition by environmentalists. [209]

In December 1978, the Task Force delivered its report to the Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission. In addition to the recommendation on the road, the Task Force also presented a priority list of development projects for the lakeshore and zoning recommendations for the area around the lakeshore including the buffer zone. Remarkably, the final report of the Task Force was endorsed by every member of the group. In the course of a year, a group of local citizens, state and federal officials had come together across a gulf of bitterness and suspicion, and developed the outlines of a workable plan.

The way the Task Force was managed played an important role in insuring its success. Greg Main did a masterful job keeping the group focused and making sure that all opinions were aired at the monthly meetings. Behind the scenes he worked with a handful of Task Force members to nudge the entire group in a productive direction. Most of the work was accomplished by the Task Force committees or after the monthly meetings had adjourned and members made their way to the local bar. Over brandy or beer, the problems were argued out. "That is where the business really took place," recalled one Task Force member, "trying to get the trust of the people back, talking about the things you didn't talk about in public." Superintendent Burns was not part of these person-to-person discussions. Nor did he play a significant role in the public meetings. In fact, it became obvious that Burns was not the right person to rebuild public trust for the lakeshore. As one sympathetic Task Force member recalled, "Bob was a nice guy, one-on-one, but to see him in a public meeting was to be mad at him." To Greg Main as head of the Task Force and John Kawamoto from the regional office, it was clear that a new superintendent was needed in Munising if the rapprochement with the community was going to be successful. [210]

The Alger County/Pictured Rocks Task Force was in one vital way a turning point in the development of the national lakeshore. Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus praised the Task Force for effecting "a noticeable change in local attitude toward the National Park Service." Yet, in hindsight, it is possible to see that by investing so much prestige on the Task Force, the Park Service boxed itself into a planning corner. It was hard for the General Management Plan team to back away from the pragmatic recommendations made by the Task Force. An unchallenged assumption by both the Park Service and CUPPAD was that the Task Force represented all important sectors of public opinion. Yet there was one group whose participation had been overlooked during the formation of the Task Force: the people who quietly had been making use of the underdeveloped lakeshore park. When this voice was heard, it would unsettle the planning process and threaten the compromise reached by the Task Force. [211]

General Management Plan

The completion of the Task Force report shifted the focus of public concern squarely on the General Management Plan process. There was considerable concern among state and local officials that the Task Force's report not simply be filed away, or that the General Management Plan be assembled with no meaningful public input. The Task Force agreed to continue, with meetings on an as needed basis, through the entire management plan process, in order to encourage the acceptance of its recommendations.

The General Management Plan team had cooperated very effectively with the Task Force, but it had also been careful to protect the integrity of its own process. An important part of this was the job of assessing the level of public interest in Pictured Rocks development. In January 1978, the Task Force conducted a survey of every household in Alger County (431 responses), asking for their input on questions of lakeshore development. The survey indicated strong support for improving roads and increasing the number of campsites within the park. Nonetheless, the General Management team wanted to take a more detailed sample of public attitudes and desires. That summer, the Task Force and the Park Service cooperated on a visitor survey which netted 1,489 responses and surprised both groups with the results. Only four percent of visitors requested that the park road be paved. The overwhelming majority not only had no complaints with the quality of the road surface, but they regarded the unpaved surface as a positive attribute. "Enjoyed the good dirt road from Grand Marais to Munising," one respondent commented, "was good to see it was not 'overly' developed." Another observed, "Felt the roads enhanced the scenery of the area, as well as slowing down traffic. Let's keep the wilderness!!" Similarly strong sentiments were expressed against developing more facilities at the park. Only two percent of visitors requested more development and that was restricted to requests for more camping sites. Some visitors expressed "strong objections" to the large-scale construction at Miners Castle. The Task Force tried to dismiss these shockingly strongly anti-development sentiments as the result of the Park Service's failure to make the park attractive to the even larger number of people who wanted automobile access to all areas and were put off by the area's poor roads. The General Management Plan team, however, had experienced the validity of the survey methodology with studies at other parks. They took the results as a serious warning that wilderness lovers would also be a force to be reckoned with in charting a course for Pictured Rocks. [212]

The Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission took the public comments seriously enough to reject the Task Force's plan for paved spur roads and the development of more visitor facilities. The controversial action was led by the commission's new chairman, John Tanton, a Petoskey, Michigan, physician with a record of national leadership in population control and environmental issues. He was an activist and under his leadership the advisory commission became a more significant force in the creation of lakeshore policy. Tanton realized that changing recreation patterns in the 1970s had increased the demand for undeveloped park lands. He argued, "if they push roads from one end of the park to the other, the park will lose its appeal to people who favor primitive types of recreation." [213]

The desire for limited development expressed by the overwhelming majority of Pictured Rocks visitors reflected the popularity of the lakeshore with practitioners of the emerging sport of backpacking. This sport had hardly figured in the original master plan. Even as late as 1972, the lakeshore was experiencing only three or four hundred overnight visits per year. Yet, by 1979, the figure had climbed to over 10,000 overnight visits. During the popular months of July and August, the number of people at a back country campsite might swell to fifty or even seventy campers. "Those people went in there," Ranger Fred Young observed, "to get a wilderness experience and they're not getting it." The boom in visitation was fueled by articles in Michigan Outdoors magazine and by word of mouth from those who experienced the breathtaking Lake Superior views and the spectacular painted cliffs. "Everyone goes home and tells their brother how great it is," Ranger Young told a journalist. In 1978, backpackers in lower Michigan formed Friends of the Pictured Rocks to restrict development. The Group had the ear of Robert "Bob" Carr, a dynamic young congressman, who went so far as to introduce a bill to amend the lakeshore's organic legislation and remove the scenic drive requirement. By the end of 1978, it was clear that a showdown was looming over what type of lakeshore the public wanted. [214]

Strong reservations concerning development were particularly evident when the Park Service held a series of planning workshops. In July 1978, workshops were held in Lansing, Grand Marais, Munising, and Marquette and drew very large and friendly audiences. In Munising, the initial workshop was disrupted by a blackout just as it was beginning. Yet, so committed were the public that people went home and returned with their lanterns so that the session could proceed. Most discussion took place in small groups so as to prevent a handful of outspoken individuals from dominating the meeting. Formal worksheets assured a uniform structure from workshop to workshop. The results, even in Alger County, were "an overall preference for preservation, with major development held to a minimum." [215]

Based on these public responses and the Task Force report the Park Service released a detailed series of planning scenarios or "alternative strategies" for Pictured Rocks. Five distinct management programs for the park including visitor use, access and circulation, resource management, and operations were presented in detail. To avoid in any way prejudicing public reaction, the General Management team did not initially specify a preferred alternative. The goal was to allow for the public to express its preferences unfettered by an agency agenda.

Alternative 1: The status quo alternative with continued protection of natural and cultural resources with protection of the primitive experience for the visitor.

Alternative 2: Maximum protection of natural and cultural resources of the lakeshore coupled with the availability of a primitive experience for the visitor.

Alternative 3: A considerable increase of visitor facilities at either end of the lakeshore while preserving the central portion in a primitive, relatively undisturbed state.

Alternative 4: A major increase in the number of visitor facilities and a diversity of recreational opportunities.

Alternative 5: Scenic shoreline drive, moderate increase in visitor facilities. [216]

The political position of the Park Service grew more precarious when it became clear that eighty-seven percent of participants in workshops preferred the status quo alternative, while the Task Force and the Advisory Commission, with some reservations, supported the much more intensive development plans of alternative 4. While the General Management team mulled over the implications of this polarization of public opinion, politicians did not hesitate to weigh in on the issue. Robert Bob Davis, the new Republican Congressman for the Eleventh District, threw his support to the recommendations of the Task Force. In March 1980, Michigan governor William Milliken visited Munising and held a formal meeting with the Task Force. He pledged to prod the Department of the Interior to accept the Task Force's preferred alternative. As proof of this John Tanton's position on the Advisory Commission was not renewed by Milliken when it came to an end in April 1980. But Milliken was not the only one to use his influence over advisory board appointments to try and direct Pictured Rocks policy. Congressman Bob Carr of Lansing influenced Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus to appoint Larry Lemanski, coordinator of the Friends of the Pictured Rocks, to one of the federal seats on the commission. [217]

As the General Management Planning process neared its conclusion, the issue of the park buffer zone took on greater public importance. Home owners within the buffer zone were first roused by Daniel Napier, the Cleveland-Cliffs representative on the Task Force. In an effort to sap support for the use of H-58 as the main park access road, Napier charged that a road outside of the lakeshore boundary would inspire the National Park Service to expand its ownership to include all land up to the road. This contention seemed to have merit when several of the alternatives proposed for public consideration included an expanded buffer zone and/or a vigorous enforcement of a ban on post-1964 residential construction. In February 1979, the Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission approved a resolution which declared any further construction activity within the buffer zone to be detrimental to the lakeshore and recommended that it be stopped by the Park Service. The commission's resolution did not have an immediate impact save to put the buffer zone issue squarely before the public. [218]

Donald Gillespie, the new superintendent at Pictured Rocks, approached the buffer zone with cautious resolution. At every turn he tried to assure the press and property owners that the park had no plan to move against residents of the buffer zone and that the National Park Service fully understood "the implications involved and do not intend to reach arbitrary conclusions regarding private land uses." At the same time Gillespie would not tolerate the legal twilight zone that had prevailed over the exact nature of the lakeshore's legal rights in the buffer. In January 1980, he requested that the Office of the Solicitor clarify the legality of allowing new residential construction in the inland zone. In February, the solicitor responded with an unambiguous assertion that it was the intent of Congress not to allow "new uses of private lands after December 31, 1964 that did not exist prior to that date." This opinion assured that whatever General Management Plan was adopted, it would include a more engaged policy toward the buffer zone. [219]

National issues helped to make the fate of the buffer zone a major issue in northern Michigan. The Sagebrush Rebellion, which had begun as a western movement against federal land management in the late 1970s, had rolled east through the work of Charles Cushman's National Inholders Association. Cushman was the angry and articulate spokesman for landowners trying to resist new or expanded park programs. The presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980 helped to popularize Cushman's anti-government message and led to his appointment to the National Park System Advisory Board after the election. The Upper Peninsula Federation of Landowners, which had been founded in 1974, enjoyed a surge in popularity. In addition to the buffer zone, conservative landowners were aroused by the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation process (RARE II), a wilderness program whereby Congress could reserve from road construction federal lands with wilderness potential. Much to the dismay of the forest products industry, Congressman Bob Carr proposed that 87,000 acres of northern Michigan national forest lands be reserved as roadless. The North Country Trail, a hiking corridor from North Dakota to New England, was also seen as a federal intrusion. Also part of the anti-government mix was fallout from California's Proposition 13 which rolled back state taxes. In Michigan, Robert Tisch led a similar movement. He argued that if government had a lot less money to work with, it could not afford schemes to take people's land. This wave washed over Alger County in June 1980 when a new organization, the Neighbors of Pictured Rocks, was born to prevent any expansion of the lakeshore's boundaries. [220]

Into this heated atmosphere the General Management Plan team released their preferred alternative for the lakeshore plan. It was variation of the more development intensive plans of alternatives 3 and 4. Camping facilities would be expanded to a total of 211 individual and thirty group sites. The road plan would continue to rely on the H-58 corridor, but the spur roads to Beaver Lake, Sevenmile Creek, and Spray Falls would not be developed. The inland buffer zone would not be expanded to provide greater watershed protection or road corridors. The Carmody Road area of the buffer zone, which had undergone intensive residential development, would be deleted from the buffer zone. A new headquarters complex would be built along H-58. The General Management Plan team conceded that this alternative had a number of adverse environmental impacts. Because major portions of the lakeshore's watershed would remain outside the buffer zone, management would be unable to prevent practices which could lead to the pollution of park waters. The wilderness potential of the Chapel Basin, Grand Sable Lake, and the Twelve Mile areas would be diminished by new road construction. On the other hand, the proposed alternative was decisively more environmentally friendly than the former master plan. [221]

The General Management Plan team had reservations about the preferred alternative. It went directly against the recommendations yielded by the visitor use study. However, the agency had committed itself to work with the Alger County/Pictured Rocks Task Force. The resulting preferred alternative was a compromise in which the team tried to mollify visitors by reducing the Task Force's level of development in the Beaver and Chapel areas but accepting the core of that group's recommendations on the park road and buffer zone. The result was a plan that drew flak from all sides. [222]

Backpackers and environmental groups were dismayed by the planning team's preferred alternative. While public meetings in northern Michigan were very poorly attended, the Lansing meeting was packed with backpackers and was, in the words of one observer, "tempestuous, to say the least." The agency was accused of "selling out" the park to local business interests. The Michigan Audubon Society urged its members to "flood" Pictured Rocks with their complaints. The Detroit Free Press, Michigan's largest newspaper, assailed the plan in a major editorial. "How much should that narrow, 27-mile strip of cliffs, dunes and pebbled beach on Lake Superior be developed and improved?" the editors asked. "The less the better, the general public always replies. The more the merrier, local government and business insist." The paper called for a plan which would "respect nature, rather than destroy it." [223]

Smoke from this Michigan fire began to attract national attention. A column in the Boston Globe accused the agency of rejecting "public opinion and its own economic data… to expose the most scenic and fragile area of the world famous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along pristine Lakes Superior to intensive development." The future of the lakeshore was painted as "wall-to-wall mobile homes, motor bikes, dune buggies, all-terrain vehicles and God knows what other form of wheeled entertainment." The new master plan was described as "another government pork barrel project with your tax dollars." The National Parks and Conservation Association charged the agency "totally ignores its own mandates and the public voice." An article in National Parks & Conservation Magazine mocked the planning team by quoting an earlier team document: "The purpose of creating a national park is to preserve an area, not to benefit the local economy." [224]

From the opposite end of the political spectrum came another loud cry of complaint. The buffer zone provisions of the preferred alternative were denounced by the Upper Peninsula Federation of Landowners (UPFLO) as a "land grab." They told the press they would form a "refugee committee" for people driven off their land by the government. Emil Groth, manager of UPFLO, accused John Austin, economist for the General Management Plan team, of being a "petty bureaucrat" adept at using "the big lie" tactic at the "expense of productive, working people in the U.P." In a phrase that would be often repeated in the next year, Groth told the Munising News, "Austin is trying to build an imperial colony for wilderness bureaucrats." The Alger County Board of Commissioners responded to these complaints by calling for the elimination of the entire buffer zone because "it takes peoples property rights with no compensation." [225]

Even CUPPAD and the Task Force, the groups the agency had worked hardest to please, reacted coolly to the preferred alternative. From their perspective the plan was problematical because it failed to spread development across the face of the entire park. By concentrating visitor facilities at both ends of the shoreline zone the Beaver Basin would be inaccessible to motorists and boaters. Greg Main pointedly challenged the Park Service, "What is the point of the lakeshore?" If the agency believed that it was Congress' intent to preserve the area from recreationists, then he suggested that they reread the original legislation. Main was also incensed by economic projections contained in the General Management Plan Information Base, released in March 1980. "I really began to see red," Main complained when he read John Austin's analysis that the presence of the lakeshore had been an economic asset to local government. That part of the report reopened the old wound that undeveloped federal park land could not compensate local government for lost property tax revenues. [226]

Over the course of the summer of 1980, a few influential voices were raised to speak in favor of the compromise. The Grand Marais Pilot and Pictured Rocks Review urged it be accepted. "It is a beautiful plan," Neal Beaver wrote, "and it should be acceptable to any reasonable person." Emil Groth of the Upper Peninsula Federation of Landowners admitted that most of his fears were based less on the actual details of the preferred alternative than on his concern that the plan was a mere "stalking-horse" for a more aggressively environmentalist plan. With some reservations, the Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission endorsed the preferred alternative. Even the Munising News rallied to the plan in a reaction to the strongly adverse editorials from downstate. [227]

By September 1980, the period for public comment on the preferred alternative expired. The General Management Plan team met at the lakeshore to plan for the final document. The three-year process and the storm of public comment frayed some of the team's cohesion. Many members of the team were deeply sympathetic to the environmentalists' critique of the preferred alternative. Superintendent Gillespie, on the other hand, was inclined toward the original recommendations of the Task Force. Someone joked that "you know you have a good plan when no one is happy." In this spirit the team went to work tinkering with the details of the plan, but sticking to the basic vision of the preferred alternative. [228]

Team Captain Howie Thompson took on the final task of preparing the draft of the general management plan. That document was released in January 1981. The plan called for 161 campsites, a significant reduction from the preferred alternative. The road followed the Task Force's recommended H-58 corridor to Legion Lake before entering into the shoreline zone on a new alignment behind Twelve Mile Beach to Sullivans Landing and then along H-58 again to Grand Sable Lake. From there the road would pass to the south before turning north to enter Grand Marais. The new road construction, however, was conditional upon the preparation of an environmental impact statement. Existing roads to Spray Creek, Mosquito Harbor, Mosquito Falls, and the mouth of Sevenmile Creek would be closed. Gravel roads would provide access to Beaver and Chapel basins but most circulation in this scenic part of the lakeshore would be via hiking trails. The controversial buffer zone would be altered via new legislation. Rather than the feared "land grab," the Carmody Road area would be deleted from the lakeshore while the date prohibiting housing construction within the buffer would be changed from 1964 to 1980. [229]

The public review of the draft proceeded much more calmly than the announcement of the preferred alternative. A total of 115 responses to the plan were received, most negative. Groups such as the Sierra Club, the National Parks & Conservation Association, and the Michigan Natural Areas Council opposed the new road construction and visitor facilities. Local organizations such as the Burt Township Zoning Board, Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, and the Alger County Planning Commission had reservations due to the failure to eliminate the buffer zone. Out of 115 formal responses to the draft, five expressed unreserved approval. [230]

The principal features of the draft were unaltered due to public comment. The General Management Plan was formally approved in September 1981. "Most facets of the public viewed the plan as a compromise," the superintendent wrote in his annual report. He also noted with relief that acceptance of the plan "completed a four-year planning process." [231]

Superintendent Gillespie

An important ingredient in the success of the General Management process was the new superintendent of Pictured Rocks, Donald F. Gillespie. He came to the lakeshore in August 1979, in a complex three-way shuffle of superintendents between Pictured Rocks, Fort Vancouver, and Scotts Bluff. His charge, as he later recalled, was to "go smooth local people's feathers." He was the right man for the job. [232]

The regional office told Gillespie in no uncertain terms that he would buy a house in Munising and become part of the community. Gillespie threw himself into the task with vigor. Unlike Superintendent Burns, he regularly participated in civic organizations like the Rotary and wore his uniform to all public functions. Gillespie had a warm, folksy manner which could break down the natural reserve which Upper Peninsula residents often displayed toward government representatives. The superintendent's community relations efforts were aided by some young, confident rangers. Deryl Stone, the new Chief Ranger, was active in veterans organizations, school board, and church groups. In Grand Marais, Robert Lanane, the District Ranger, got involved in that community in a similar manner, helping to put a human face on the agency. Gillespie was also a no nonsense executive who overhauled the management system at the park, clarifying the lines of authority, ensuring "more responsive leadership" in all departments of the park. [233]

Coming in to the lakeshore at the tail end of the Beaver Basin controversy and the beginning of the General Management Plan process meant that the new superintendent would encounter considerable hostility. One of his first actions was to head straight into the lion's den of the Munising-Alger Sportsman Club. A state official at the same meeting later recalled how Gillespie immediately dispelled the air of hostility at the meeting. "He put on a great show," talking to the hunters as one sportsman to another. These type of sessions and Gillespie's active participation in the work of the Task Force gave local people the clear impression that the National Park Service, which since 1968 had been seen as having down-graded Pictured Rocks, had sent one of their "rising stars" to Munising. [234]

The controversy which swirled over the Pictured Rocks when Gillespie arrived required that during his brief tenure, he deal much more than previous superintendents had with political leaders. Gillespie was particularly astute at this facet of his job. When Governor Milliken announced he would visit Munising in March 1980, Gillespie warned Omaha that they could expect criticism of the slow pace of the General Management Plan process. Gillespie prepared two public relations scenarios of how the agency could handle the visit. He recommended that the regional office release a press notice that a General Management Plan hearing would be held in Munising in one month; this would preempt criticism that the agency was dragging its feet. Yet, he also advised the Regional Director that the lakeshore could win the Governor's friendship by letting his staff know of the up-coming meeting, but withholding any official notice until the Governor's visit, so that it would look like "we were spurred to action by Governor Milliken." The Director choose the former policy. The buffer zone controversy also required careful handling by Gillespie. He was able to avoid appearing unresponsive to Congressman Bob Davis when he "tried to hold the Park Service's feet to the fire" and established a cooperative relationship with the staffs of Senators Carl Levin and Donald Reigle, which opened the way for a potential legislative solution. [235]

Gillespie experienced considerable frustration over the length of the General Management process. He did not come from a planning background himself and tended to focus more on the practical compromises necessary to implement an eventual policy than the importance of the process itself. From the time of his first involvement with the team, he advocated a shorter process, but the best he could do was get the schedule reduced by one month. By January 1980, he was receiving sharp local criticism over the lack of a preferred alternative from the Park Service. "I believe that further delays or lengthy setbacks in this process," he wrote the regional head of planning, "will do irreparable damage to National Park Service credibility--even with those who now support us." [236]

After the preferred alternative was released, the superintendent became the focus of all complaints. In May 1980, he informed the regional director that those objecting to the preferred alternative formed "two groups of opposite disposition charging the National Park Service with using biased and deceitful practices… l am attempting to respond to both groups." The superintendent's ability to stand up to "these factions day after day" impressed many people in the community. "You are doing a fine job," wrote the chair of the Advisory Commission, "and are making a good impression on the local scene." The publisher of the Grand Marais Pilot even extended "my sympathies to Don Gillespie" over the barrage of comments. It was a tribute both to the General Management Plan process and Superintendent Gillespie's public affairs skills that although the preferred alternative polarized opinion, both environmentalists and community leaders grew more not less supportive of the lakeshore administration. [237]

With the completion of the General Management Plan Donald Gillespie regarded his mission accomplished at Pictured Rocks. For the restoration job that he had done at the lakeshore, the agency rewarded him with the post of Special Assistant to the Regional Director of the Rocky Mountain Region, with specific duties in Salt Lake City, acting as the liaison with the Utah state legislature. Gillespie's brief tenure had done much to dispel the poisoned atmosphere growing out of the lakeshore's circumscribed beginnings and poor personnel decisions. While the agency was still viewed warily in Munising and the new General Management Plan had left several major issues unresolved, the lakeshore in 1981 was poised for a new, more promising beginning.

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Last Updated: 05-Apr-2002