Pictured Rocks
An Administrative History
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"'What would you advocate instead?'" demanded the ruggedly handsome park ranger in a 1984 romance novel set in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. "That the whole lakeshore stay in private hands, so owners can do as they choose with it?--like putting up 'No Trespassing' signs. Or perhaps selling out at a huge profit to some fast-food chain that will come in and build a few pizza palaces on the dunes, so plastic forks can grow in the sand and styrofoam boxes driff in on every wave." In between scenes of simulated passion, the novel Hostages to Fortune posed the conflict between private and public property rights within the lakeshore. The period 1981-1991, saw a continuation of the tension between preservation and development in the lakeshore. While the successful completion of the General Management Plan ensured that the conflict was waged on a more complex level than the wilderness vs. Pizza Hut dichotomy, the basic challenge for the lakeshore administration remained how to develop a recreation area without compromising the character of what the romance writer called "a wild and beautiful place." The conflict over the buffer zone, the continued saga of the park roads, and the effort to use science and interpretation to protect the resource and instruct the public might not have been the stuff of melodrama, let alone romance, but it was the worthy work of the Park Service at Pictured Rocks. [238]

These recent years at Pictured Rocks were an era of maturity. The lakeshore celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 1986. The park projected in the General Management Plan gradually, deliberately, took shape. It was also an era of program cuts and shrinking budgets--the days of James Watt as Secretary of the Interior and Gramm-Rudman in the Congress. What Superintendent Grant Petersen wrote at the end of 1993 was true for the whole period since 1981: "The Lakeshore experienced advances in some areas of operation, reversals in others, and hopes for 'a better future' for the remainder." [239]

Resolving the Buffer Zone

One of the major accomplishments at Pictured Rocks during the 1980s was the resolution of the management of the buffer zone. The General Management Plan process had stirred up considerable local interest in the rights of the 150 residential property owners within the lakeshore's outer zone. The plan called for "grandfatheringin" homes built within the buffer after 1965 and until 1980, to "protect property owners who have inadvertently developed their land in violation of the 1966 law." An earlier proposal to allow limited construction to continue under the supervision of local zoning was dropped after a January 1980 ruling by the Interior Department's Solicitor's Office that "construction of residences on private lands within the buffer zone" was contrary to the intent of Congress. That action set the stage for a legislative confrontation over the buffer zone. The General Management Plan called for the lakeshore's organic legislation to be amended for boundary adjustments, to extend the "grandfather" clause, and to increase the authorized amount of money to be spent on park development. Angry homeowners, however, demanded that the law be amended to drop the buffer zone completely from the Lakeshore. Representative Bob Davis introduced a bill, H.R. 2864, to that effect in the Congress. [240]

There was little chance that the buffer zone would be removed from the park. The Davis bill went directly to the desk of John F. Seiberling (D-Ohio) who chaired the National Parks and Public Lands Subcommittee. Seiberling was a strong proponent of the national parks and the godfather of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in Ohio. Both he and Davis knew that the latter's bill would never see the light of day. Seiberling was, however, willing to try and resolve the problem. He contacted Arthur Eck of the agency's Washington Office and advised, "We ought to be able to do something about this." In October 1981, Congressmen Seiberling and Davis toured the Pictured Rocks buffer zone. The inspection verified that the buffer would not be eliminated. Instead, Seiberling advised that an administrative solution be devised which would protect lakeshore values without trampling on private property rights. [241]

The way was cleared for an "administrative solution" on March 30, 1982, when the Office of the Solicitor offered a revised opinion on the buffer zone. In the lawyers' third try at determining the meaning of section ten of the lakeshore bill they managed to come up with a third interpretation. Secretary of the Interior James Watt's solicitor ruled that the law "suggested" that the Park Service had the "discretion" to determine which properties built after 1965 were a threat to the lakeshore. What the agency needed for Pictured Rocks was a land and water use management plan that would distinguish between vital and less significant parcels within the buffer. Such a document would serve as a supplement to the General Management Plan. On April 30, 1982, the Park Service committed to preparing the plan. Funds were redirected from Indiana Dunes to Pictured Rocks to begin the process. [242]

Pictured Rocks was in the rather unusual position of siphoning funds from other parks because of the high degree of political interest which had developed over the buffer zone. Senators Carl Levin and Donald Reigle had been spurred to involve themselves in the affairs of the lakeshore by the nationally publicized fight between development and preservation during the General Management Plan process. While Congressman Davis pursued the extreme yet simple expedient of eliminating the buffer altogether, Michigan's senators had their staff work with the lakeshore to develop a bill to implement the General Management Plan. Senatorial staffers conferred with Grant Petersen, the new Pictured Rocks Superintendent, the Alger County Highway Department, the planning commission, and CUPPAD. On December 16, 1982, Kel Smyth, an aide to Senator Carl Levin, presented a draft of a bill amending the lakeshore to the planning commission for local comment. "Bipartisan Support for the bill appears to exist politically and in terms of both local development oriented and regional environmental interests," Grant Petersen reported. The Mining Journal, the Upper Peninsula's most influential newspaper, endorsed the bill and commended "our U.S. Senators...for demonstrating their willingness to work together on introduction and passage of this vital measure." [243]

Introduced into the Ninety-seventh Congress as S.620, the bill was a comprehensive amendment of Public Law 89-668 which created the lakeshore. The bill proposed to solve the buffer zone controversy by establishing a Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Buffer Zone Authority to establish model zoning regulations for the buffer area. Other provisions of the legislation provided funds for the maintenance of non-Park Service roads within the lakeshore, raised the development ceiling, adjusted the boundaries of the lakeshore, and allowed the transfer of other Federal agency properties in Grand Marais for use as a visitor center. In March 1983, Congressman Davis abandoned his own initiative and introduced a companion to the Levin-Reigle bill in the House. To everyone involved the buffer zone problem appeared to be all but solved.

To everyone but the Department of the Interior. On June 27, 1983, at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the bill, Secretary Watt's administration sprang an ambush. To the shock of almost everyone present, National Park Service Director Russell Dickenson refused to support the Levin-Reigle bill. He rejected the buffer zone compromise on the grounds it would give the Secretary of the Interior approval over local zoning. He spurned provisions to allow the transfer or donation of property from other federal agencies. "There are visitor information and administrative facilities already within the boundary," he testified, "and we do not propose an expansion of the area beyond the current boundary." Dickenson also opposed the spending of federal dollars on local roads. He even rejected increasing the development ceiling for the lakeshore. Behind the Director's amazing testimony, which went against the recommendations of the General Management Plan, the park superintendent, the regional office, even Dickenson's better judgement, were the unambiguous orders that the Interior Department rejected any effort to increase its responsibilities over the buffer zone. The Levin-Reigle [bill had been opposed by the Upper Peninsula Federation of Landowners, northern Michigan's "wise use" watchdog group. "The Interior Department apparently believes," the Mining Journal's Washington reporter speculated, "the current bill gives too much power to the Interior Secretary and not enough to local residents." The Office of Management and Budget also strongly opposed the spending implications of the bill. As coup de grace, the Office of the Solicitor intoned the department's new position with a fresh opinion against the advisability of a Buffer Zone Authority. [244]

The rejection of the Levin-Reigle compromise came as a major shock and a significant embarrassment to the lakeshore. The intimate involvement of Grant Petersen and the regional office in the creation of the compromise had led everyone to believe the effort would have the support of the Park Service. Only weeks before the hearing Petersen and the region had reviewed a draft statement in favor of the bill. The lakeshore was not provided a copy of the statement Dickenson delivered to the subcommittee until three weeks after the hearing! Thus Petersen was largely unprepared for the storm of local criticism that broke against his door in the wake of the policy change. [245]

The press in northern Michigan savaged the National Park Service over its opposition to Levin-Reigle. The Munising News portrayed the agency's position as that of a power hungry bureaucracy unwilling to "relinquish controls they now hold. The Mining Journal characterized the Levin-Reigle bill as "proof that at least in some cases, the little guy is eventually heard." Dickenson's testimony against the bill "puts a damper on the whole business" and flicked on the switch of the "red tape machine" again. In opposing the bill, the agency went on record as opposing increasing the amount of money that could be spent on developing the lakeshore. This revived all of the old local resentments over the agency's earlier failure to follow through with development schemes and seemed to indicate that the long, drawn-out General Management Plan process had been a sham. Ironically, it was in the interest of local control that James Watt's Interior Department opposed the bill. But, by refusing to listen to their own Interior employees on the local level, the department had committed the crime they found most objectionable in others--namely, acting unilaterally from Washington, regardless of local conditions. [246]

Senators Levin and Reigle reintroduced S.620 in the next Congress. The administration made no effort to work for a compromise on the bill. The Senators persisted for two years in trying to pass S.620 but the bill's momentum was forever halted by National Park Service opposition. Nonetheless the bill marked the engagement of Michigan's Senators with the affairs of the lakeshore. The connection between the Senate staff, Congressman Bob Davis and the lakeshore remained in place in spite of the failure of S.620. It would prove critical to developing the lakeshore. The Levin-Reigle initiative also pointed the route by which a compromise could be reached through cooperative zoning. The final resolution, however, would come not in the halls of Congress, but in meeting rooms of northern Michigan. [247]

Fortunately, while the Levin-Reigle bill was twisting in the wind, the lakeshore went ahead with its preparation of a land and water use plan to supplement the General Management Plan. This process was easily folded into the preparation of a land protection plan when, in late 1982, in response to Congressional direction, the Department of the Interior ordered each park with active land acquisition programs to assemble such plans. The land protection plans were designed to rationalize and reduce land acquisition by the Park Service. Secretary Watt hoped to force parks to find cost-effective ways to protect park values short of fee acquisition. Funded by the regional office and conducted by the Denver Service Center, the land protection plan process focused on locating those parcels within the buffer zone which required Park Service fee ownership. The plan also sought to identify means short of ownership, such as easements or zoning, by which the lakeshore could meet its legislated mandate to "stabilize and protect the existing character and uses of the lands, waters, and other properties" in order to preserve the "setting of the shoreline and lakes, protecting watersheds and streams, and providing the fullest economic utilization of the renewable resources through sustained yield timber management." [248]

The draft Land Protection Plan was released on October 25, 1984. The plan proposed three principal methods of protecting the natural values of the 37,599 acres of non-Park Service land: 1) State lands would be managed by the Department of Natural Resources in accordance with the goals of the lakeshore; 2) Acquisition of a small number of key parcels (mostly near where the shoreline zone is very narrow or along key watersheds) through donation, transfer from other federal agencies, or purchase; 3) Zoning of private lands as either timber harvesting zones or low density residential use zones. Critical to the use of zoning was the provision that the Park Service have the power to implement its own regulations if local zoning was weak and the right of the agency to review variances. [249]

The Land Protection Plan team presented their draft to the public in three informal hearings. The response was largely favorable, with most residents of the buffer zone relieved to see "the cloud of uncertainty" about their property beginning to clear. The major challenge to the draft came from John Hermann, Chair of the Alger County Planning Commission and an employee of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (Woodlands Division). The plan commission had recently completed their own proposed zoning regulations for the buffer zone. superintendent Petersen consulted with the commission during their planning process and the two plans were rather similar to each other. The major areas of disagreement were the size of the setbacks allowed in the low density residential use zones and the agency's insistence on its power to institute its own regulations or zoning for the area as insurance against local actions deemed harmful to the lakeshore. The commission responded with a show of petulance. It spurned Superintendent Petersen's written request to present the plan formally to the commission land in an unannounced recessed meeting, voted to "oppose" the draft plan. It was an example of the lingering bitterness between the lakeshore and the community. Nonetheless, the Land Protection team revised the draft, bringing the document basically into line with the commission's zone regulations, but reserving the right of the lakeshore to issue independent regulations if need be. [250]

In spite of the substantial changes made by the agency, the Land Protection Plan stirred controversy. The plan won the support of the Alger County Planning Commission, which had rejected the draft, although chair John Hermann voted with the minority in opposition. Opponents of the plan were in the majority when the Alger County Board met in July 1985. Anti-lakeshore sentiment was in full bloom. Commissioner Joseph Burke reminded the audience of the agency's broken development promises: "Today, it's nothing but a backpacker's paradise." Opponents of the plan hammered away at the plan's provision for the Park Service to issue its own regulations if need be to protect the buffer zone. "This is the Park Service taking one more step to total control," one commissioner complained. A month later, in a calmer atmosphere, and faced with appeals by buffer zone homeowners and Senator Donald Reigle, the County Board narrowly approved the plan Approval of the zoning plan by Burt Township provided the green light to the implementation of zoning controls over the buffer zone. After seventeen years in an administrative twilight zone, the buffer was finally brought under management control. [251]

Grand Island: A Lost Opportunity

In 1990, Congress established the Grand Island National Recreation Area as part of the Hiawatha National Forest. The legislation brought the 13,558-acre island in Munising Bay into federal ownership. Yet the decision not to include Grand Island in an expanded Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was a blow to the Park Service's prestige and a set-back for the advocates of wilderness outdoor recreation. It was a lost opportunity to expand the often crowded Pictured Rocks back country by 13,558 acres and to bring under one management an environment which was historically and geologically closely linked to the Pictured Rocks.

Grand Island was originally slated to be part of the lakeshore. Consideration was given to including the entire island, although the final recommendation of the Great Lakes Shoreline Survey was to include the southeast portion of the island. It was called the "Thumb" and was connected to the main part of Grand Island by a narrow, marshy isthmus. It boasted sandstone cliffs not unlike the Pictured Rocks. Yet this part of the lakeshore was abandoned during preliminary negotiations with the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, which owned nearly the entire island. The Northeast Regional Director Lon Garrison was reported to have said that the National Park Service already had a Lake Superior island (Isle Royale) with the management problems inherent in islands and did not need another. Again, During the General Management Plan process the question of including Grand Island came up. Backpackers and environmentalists advocated expanding the buffer zone to include Grand Island, a logical suggestion because of the way in which the island dominates the view from the Pictured Rocks. Alternative 2 of the plan, which was approved by the majority of lakeshore visitors, actually included that provision. [252]

The question of what to do about Grand Island again emerged when the agency began work on the land protection plan. After considerable input from Superintendent Petersen, Robert Shelley, Assistant Manager of the Denver Service Center's Rocky Mountain/Midwest Team, recommended that the agency plan to conduct a resource study of Grand Island within three to five years to determine if it was a suitable candidate for inclusion in the lakeshore. Writing in 1983, Shelley noted that Grand Island probably would have been part of the General Management Plan save for a hostile political climate. "The political climate has changed little in the past few years, and thus no recommendation regarding Grand Island will be addressed in the lakeshore land protection plan even though the planning team also recognized the island's relationship to the lakeshore and the desire to see the island under some form of protection." [253]

The future of Grand Island moved from the theoretical to the actual in 1984 when the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company announced that they were actively seeking a buyer for the island. Superintendent Petersen immediately appealed to the Midwest Regional Office for a feasibility study of adding the island to the lakeshore. Regional Director Charles H. Odegaard brushed aside the request with the plea "lack of funding" and the observation that expanding the lakeshore's boundaries "would be contrary to the policies of the administration." The only hope Odegaard held out was that if local Support and congressional action were strong enough the agency might be empowered to act. [254]

For four years the island was the subject of intense local speculation. Rumors of buyers ranged from pop singers to recreational development consortiums. Yet, although several private groups inspected the island and the tract was rather heavily marketed no bona fide offers were received from private owners. At one point the twenty private homeowners on the island banded together to try and buy the huge island themselves, but could not raise the reported $6.5 million asking price. The Wilderness Society and other environmental groups advocated federal ownership for the island, although their engagement in the issue was fairly low key. Public sentiment in Alger County seemed to favor private ownership. Finally, in January 1988, after more than three years of failing to secure a genuine private buyer, the Trust for Public Lands secured a one-year option on the purchase of Grand Island Speculation was rife that the stage was being set for Park Service ownership. The Park Service was "interested," one lot owner on the island said, "but they won't admit it." [255]

Interest in adding Grand Island to the lakeshore was keen among the staff of Pictured Rocks. The initiative had some support at the regional level, but all hope of mounting an effective campaign for expanding the lakeshore floundered in the Washington office. Director William Penn Mott flew over Grand Island on July 11, 1988, in the company of Superintendent Grant Petersen during a hectic tour of Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks, and Isle Royale. The primary purpose of the overflight was to provide Mott an aerial view of the Two-Hearted River Watershed in Luce County to the east of Pictured Rocks. With his principal interest in advancing the concept of a National River Park to encompass the total Two Hearted Watershed, the Director displayed little interest in promoting Grand Island as an addition to Pictured Rocks. [256]

In May 1988, the Alger County Overall Economic Planning and Development Committee organized a public meeting on the island's future. Present were representatives of the Trust for Public Lands, the Sierra Club, Sigurd Olson Institute, local officials, and representatives for Senator Donald Reigle and Congressman Bob Davis. The meeting indicated a popular preference for ownership by the Forest Service as opposed to the Park Service. "If the island goes to the forest service," one former Munising resident claimed, "we'll have land management, not just preservation." The handful of small owners on the island were particularly anxious to see the Forest Service own the island so as to protect their access to existing roads as well as hunting, fishing, and trapping rights. When the Trust for Public Lands finally acted in December 1988 to purchase the island Representative Dale Kildee, a Democrat from Flint, Michigan made the decision to introduce a bill to add the tract to the Hiawatha National Forest. [257]

Congressman Kildee had a long track record of working to preserve wilderness areas within the National forests of northern Michigan. In the face of Congressman Bob Davis's opposition to any public ownership of Grand Island, and Kildee's own experience with the Forest Service, it made sense not to consider adding the island to the lakeshore. Very negative public reaction to the Park Service's decision to ban trapping in the lakeshore and renewed attention to the failure of the agency to develop Pictured Rocks into the "star attraction" promised in the overly optimistic days of the 1960s had created considerable local opposition to any expansion of the lakeshore. Another factor working against the lakeshore was the Park Service's announcement of Director Mott's special interest in a Two-Hearted River Park. Congressman Bob Davis quickly scotched the proposal, but it raised the specter of too much Park Service presence in the minds of many upper Peninsula residents. Thus, largely through bad timing and poor leadership on the part of the Park Service, Grand Island was lost to the lakeshore. [258]

Land Acquisition, Again

That political leadership and agency support could have brought Grand Island within the boundaries of the lakeshore is indicated by the expansion of Park Service fee ownership within the buffer zone during the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to the Land Protection Plan, the agency identified the buffer zone acreage it needed to protect the viewsheds and, to a lesser extent, the watershed of the lakeshore. In 1987 superintendent Petersen directed an addendum to the plan. It was essentially an action plan laying out how the lakeshore would carry out its land acquisition needs within the buffer. This was no idle exercise. When Cleveland-Cliffs put Grand Island up for sale in 1984, it signaled a major reversal in company land policy. Rumors that all Cleveland-Cliff lands in the central Upper Peninsula were going to be sold were confirmed in 1987. Between a large number of small buffer zone lot owners and Cleveland-Cliffs' desire to liquidate its holdings, the lakeshore was faced with a surge of willing sellers. What Pictured Rocks lacked was the money to make a purchase. [259]

"Here goes another 2,000 acres off the tax rolls," complained one Grand Marais politician when he heard of the attempt to increase fee ownership within the buffer zone. Nonetheless, the political ties formed between the lakeshore and Michigan's Democratic senators during the attempt to pass S.620 paid off in 1987 when Senator Donald Reigle was able to insert $200,000 in a continuing budget resolution that was passed by the Congress. Even so Pictured Rocks remained the poor relation among the Great Lakes parks. The bill included $2 million for Sleeping Bear Dunes expansion, but it left Pictured Rocks $300,000 short of what was needed to carry out the Land Protection Plan. The additional money came in fiscal 1989, thanks to a Senate-House Conference Committee appropriation of Land and Water Conservation Funds. [260]

Many of the initial parcels purchased were along the right-of-way of Log Slide Overlook access road. Once the agency had full control over the corridor, it petitioned the Alger County Road Commission to abandon the road to the National Park Service. Once this was done the lakeshore not only had control of the viewshed along an important visitor route, but it finally could expend Park Service money on maintaining that stretch of road. The lakeshore also sought to purchase easements along H-58, to protect forest lands along the principal park access road. [261]

In 1990, Cleveland-Cliffs sold all of its lands within the buffer zone to Benson Forests. Benson immediately informed the lakeshore that they would be willing to sell those tracts to the National Park Service. in April 1992, the lakeshore acquired from Benson 538 acres of land identified by the Land Protection Plan for watershed protection. Negotiations were begun to purchase an additional 11,857 acres. Unfortunately Pictured Rocks only had $110,000 remaining in its Land and Water Conservation Fund money. A portion of this had to be reserved for the purchase of parcels from small property owners. The purchase of a large block of Benson Forests lands, appraised at $3.9 million, was stymied for lack of Congressional action. Despite this setback to the land acquisition program, by the end of the calendar year 1993, the National Park Service had acquired 1,798 acres of inland buffer zone lands identified for agency administration in the Land Protection Plan. [262]

Roads, Scenic and Otherwise

Like Banquo's ghost, the dream of a scenic drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Munising arose again in the 1980s. The issue was reborn in December 1984 when representatives of Alger, Luce, and Chippewa counties met to discuss the practicality of such a roadway. It was decided to form a study group. Under the leadership of Frank Mead of Grand Marais, the group met once a month for a year. During that time they planned a tentative route which would largely utilize existing corridors and would link some of the region's finest shoreline views with the major inland tourist attractions. While largely a grassroots effort, the Superior Scenic Drive group was careful and deliberate in preparing their plan. They met with regional Sierra Club leaders, local planning groups, and representatives of Michigan's congressional leaders. [263]

The reaction to the work of the Superior Scenic Drive Committee was mixed. In Luce County, support was lukewarm due to the fear that a scenic highway to the north of the county's main city, Newberry, would direct tourist dollars away rather than act as an attraction Local highway officials feared that a new set of paved roads would deflect funds away from the much-needed maintenance of the existing road system. Federal and state representatives reminded the committee about the difficulty of securing funds for new programs. This response Naturally directed public attention at the twelve-mile segment of the road slated to pass from Beaver Basin to Twelve Mile Beach. This segment was entirely within the lakeshore and therefore the unambiguous responsibility of the National Park Service. This segment was not a new plan, but part of the formally adopted General Management Plan, sanctioned by act of Congress. The first stretch of road the committee called to be built was the right-of-way through the lakeshore. [264]

Superintendent Petersen worked with the committee as a support staff during their deliberations. He was supportive of the broad goal of the committee As superintendent, Petersen had worked creatively to implement the master plan with the limited development funds at his disposal. In 1986, the Park Service spent $356,598 to pave the road to Miners Castle; a year later the Sand Point access road, which had deteriorated to the point of sometimes being passable only to four-wheel-drive vehicles, was paved. In 1988, improvements were made to the Grand Marais area access roads and parking areas. "These road projects," Petersen told the Mining Journal, "are a step-by-step implementation of the 1981 general management plan as it pertains to roads in the lakeshore." Critical in carrying out these improvements was the active support of Congressman Bob Davis, who secured the Sand Point Road money, and Senator Carl Levin, who secured the Grand Marais area money. This progress, however, did not prevent a new round of controversy concerning the requirement of a scenic shoreline drive in the lakeshore's organic legislation. [265]

Leading the charge in this latest skirmish was Marcia Gould, an Alger County Commissioner and a candidate for the 11th District seat in Congress. "We are Americans who believe in Democracy," she wrote in her call to action, "and intend to hold the Secretary of the Interior and the United States Congress accountable to the intent of the law." That intent was not the compromise road endorsed by the General Management Plan and the Superior Scenic Drive Committee but instead nothing short of a shoreline road. "We feel the 1982 compromise was to the Park Service's benefit local input was ignored," she told the Detroit News. Gould's campaign for the shoreline road was fought largely in the pages of the Munising News and at meetings of the Alger Board of Commissioners. It was counter-productive in that it stirred-up anti Park Service attitudes in northern Michigan and aroused environmentalists to oppose any type of new road in the park. Gould's attack, however, did draw some sympathetic press in lower Michigan, and may have helped to draw the attention of several lower Michigan congressmen to the well-considered report of the Superior Scenic Drive Committee. [266]

"We're committed to making the Superior Scenic Drive happen," Levin told the committee. He pledged to begin by pressuring the Park Service to commit the Funds necessary to begin planning the new road from Beaver Basin to Twelve-Mile Beach. In a letter to National Park Service Director William Penn Mott, Levin observed that "The Park Service originally committed itself to undertake this project in 1966…Yet nothing has been done for all these years." He described the road issue as "a source of embarrassment" to the entire federal establishment. All but one of Michigan's eighteen member congressional delegation agreed to support the appeal. Governor James Blanchard joined in the chorus calling for immediate action. In April 1989, Senator Levin succeeded in securing $150,000 to begin the process of studying the road. [267]

In 1989, the hope was to complete and an environmental impact statement within two years, and then begin engineering studies and construction. This projection, like every other plan made concerning the park road, proved to be overly optimistic of the environmental issues involved and the financial resources dedicated to the lakeshore.

Managing the Lakeshore

The fourth superintendent of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was Grant Petersen. He began his career with the agency as a seasonal at the Coulee Dam National Recreation Area and later put in stints at Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, and Fire Island National Seashore, before serving as superintendent of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. The suburban Chicago native had a B.S. in park management from Michigan State University and a M.S. in range science (park planning) from Texas A & M University. Petersen's background was particularly well suited to Pictured Rocks. While most of his park experience had been at new or developing areas, he also brought to the lakeshore an extensive background in planning. He conducted recreation research while at Fire Island and in the early 1970s he worked at the Chicago Field Office where he coordinated historic national landmark studies, wild and scenic river, and north country trail studies, the Ice Age Trail project, and the Great Lakes Basin Framework Study initiative.

The new superintendent was able to build on the work of Donald Gillespie and work gradually to restore a cooperative relationship between the lakeshore and the community. He took an active role in the Rotary Club, the County Planning Commission, Chamber-of-Commerce, and the Alger County Historical Society. He even served as president of the latter two organizations. His affable personality, energetic attitude, and high level of community involvement helped to reduce the "us vs. them atmosphere in Alger County. While intent on carrying out agency policy, Petersen tried to reduce direct antagonisms with the local community. The closing of old logging roads in the lakeshore, for example, was a source of frustration for local sportsmen. Petersen allowed partial use of several of the more popular roads, rather than vigorously close off all access. A gradual approach was seen as preferable to a confrontation. [268]

Petersen took as his principal charge at Pictured Rocks the implementation of the recently completed General Management Plan. In doing this, he was aided by his background in planning and cooperative relations. This was particularly the case with improving road conditions within the lakeshore. The failure of the administration to support the Levin-Reigle bill could have completely stymied road improvements. Instead, Petersen worked very closely with county officials, the regional office, and congressional representatives to patch together a financial package for improving the park access roads. The Miners Castle Road, for example, utilize funds from the Federal Land Highway Program, Economic Development Administration, and Federal Aid Secondary monies matched with Alger county road commission funds to pave a right-of-way controlled by local, state, and federal authorities. This approach was frustrating because a complex project would require grants from several sources all coming thorough to make the job a reality. In 1989, for example, Peterson’s proposal to pave part of count road H-58 was shelved when no Public Land Highway Funds were granted, in spite of the fact that the project was ranked number two in the state by the Michigan State Department of Transportation. Even with these occasional frustrations, Petersen was able to improve visitor access incrementally to the lakeshore. [269]

Another part of the General Management Plan which benefited from Petersen’s creative administration was the improvement of visitor facilities. Unlike other working at the unit. In 1959, as a young boy, he camped at the old Miners Castle county park and, in 1980, he camped in the lakeshore during a family vacation in the north woods. He had no illusions about how the area had been managed prior to the arrival of the National Park Service as well as the shortcomings of the agency’s regime. Petersen regarded Pictured Rocks as the "orphan park of the region." Sleeping Bear Dunes, Apostle Islands, and of course, Indiana Dunes, were all better funded and staffed. Petersen wanted to make immediate improvements to campgrounds, picnic areas, and parking facilities, but knew the lakeshore lacked the funds to rely on the National Park Service design center. His solution was to bring into the lakeshore a landscape architect. [270]

Pictured Rocks had a long-established tradition of improvisational problem-solving. It was a mixed record of making do with limited means that did not always meet the standards of the agency. In 1983, Petersen improved the lakeshore’s ability to make modest improvements on its own by salvaging a landscape architect from the wreckage of the defunct Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. Robert Teed, a designer with almost twenty years of experience, gave the park the capacity to make much-needed improvements to back country campsites, and the much-too-small Twelve-Mile Beach campground, as well as to relocate completely the much-abused and over-used campground at Hurricane River. [271]

Petersen continued his predecessor’s active use of the Youth Conservation Corps and the Young Adult conservation Crops. While these programs lasted they played a role in many campground and trail improvements within the lakeshore. A $54,747 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1989 funded the development of the Sand Point Marsh Trail by the Youth Conservation Corps. Volunteerism also was an active part of the lakeshore's effort to do more with limited resources. In 1986, for example, Boy Scouts from downstate Michigan helped to stabilize the shoreline near Au Sable lighthouse. In later years, scouts worked on trail bridges and signage. [272]

Early in his administration Petersen put an emphasis on improving interagency cooperation at the lakeshore. Pictured Rocks was very much a cooperative park, but the lines of communication and cooperation with other agencies were not well established. The completion of the land protection plan and the adoption of zoning controls for the buffer zone was a major accomplishment of cooperative relations. Another landmark was the opening of a joint U.S. Forest Service/National Park Service visitor center in Munising in 1988 which did much to cement a closer working relationship between the lakeshore and the Hiawatha National Forest. As called for in the General Management Plan, the visitor center was jointly staffed by both agencies. Although the Park Service was responsible for only ten percent of the total construction cost, it received a highly visible public interpretation facility. Cooperation with the Forest Service also led to the transfer of significant acreage in the buffer zone from Department of Agriculture control to that of the National Park Service. [273]

Under Petersen's direction the lakeshore developed closer working relationships with local law enforcement agencies. Chief Ranger Deryl Stone hammered out a memorandum of understanding with the Alger County Sheriff's Department. Rangers in the Grand Marais District were deputized to backup the sheriff's office and were empowered to enforce state and county regulations. The agreement was tested almost immediately by several successful search and rescue missions. [274]

The Pictured Rocks Advisory Commission came to the end of its statutory life in 1982. In consultation with the chair of the commission, Superintendent Petersen recommended that no measures be taken to extend its life. As a transition step, Petersen established a Superintendent's Advisory Group, composed of representatives of Alger County, Munising, Burt Township, buffer zone residents, and lakeshore visitors. After several years of occasionally getting together at a Saturday breakfast meeting, the group ceased to function by 1986. It did, however, remain in place on paper to be activated on an "as needed basis." [275]

While the size of the lakeshore staff has remained relatively consistent during Superintendent Petersen's tenure, the nature and complexity of the issues with which they deal has required increasing specialization and independence. This requirement was partially addressed in 1988 by the preparation of a ten-year plan designed to phase in organizational and operational needs. Among the immediate changes brought by the ten-year plan was the creation of a separate Division of Science and Resource Management. This separation of resource management from interpretation and visitor protection reflected the growing importance of scientific research at Pictured Rocks.

Research and Resource Management

This area of the management of the lakeshore has experienced the most significant growth during the 1980s. Prior to the arrival of Superintendent Petersen, resource management was limited to the most basic type of visual monitoring. The lakeshore did not even have a resource management plan until 1981. It was only with the implementation of a General Management Plan that it became a central goal of the lakeshore to develop the capacity to assess environmental impacts fully. This required scientifically trained park personnel and the development of environmental baselines from which to evaluate change.

The addition of Walter L. Loope, Ph.D., who joined the lakeshore as a Resource Management Specialist from the U.S. Forest Service via the Resource Management Training Program, provided the in-house capability to address short-term problems caused by visitor use and begin the process of better understanding the long term behavior of the lakeshore ecosystem. Upon joining the lakeshore in 1982, Loope immediately went to work with Chief Ranger Stone evaluating the impact of camping on ground cover and the effects of soil compaction. This work led to the preparation of a Backcountry Management Plan which featured the establishment of specific backcountry campsites composed of individual signed sites. The use of fire was restricted, the presence of pets was prohibited, and the number of formal backcountry camping sites was increased. In order to monitor this plan Loope initiated a long-term study of the impact of human disturbance of the natural vegetation. [276]

Among the most important issues addressed by the lakeshore's new resource manager was the stability of the Grand Sable Dunes. In 1984, the lakeshore contracted with John P. Farrell and John D. Hughes, two Northern Michigan University geologists, to investigate the impact of county road H-58 on Grand Sable Dune. The road, which was the principal access to the eastern portion of the lakeshore, was uncomfortably squeezed between the shore of Grand Sable Lake and the dune. Unfortunately the dune was advancing toward the lake at an alarming rate. Highway crews annually had to remove tons of sand from the right-of-way and even then could not keep the road open year-round. The General Management Plan proposed to avoid a confrontation with the dune by relocation the road to the south shore of the lake. This idea, however, did not hold up to close scrutiny. A road south of the lake was budgeted at close to $5 million and would disrupt a fragile wetland. Farrell and Hughes discovered that the problem of sand accumulation on the road had been accelerated by unrestricted visitor foot traffic on the face of the dune. [277]

The lakeshore also approached the problem from a comparative point of view. In conjunction with Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a joint project was launched: "Human Impacts on Dunes." As a result of these projects, the lakeshore began a program of restricting access to the eastern face of the dune and initiated planting Ammophila breviligulata, a dune grass, in an attempt to stabilize the dune. The Farrell and Hughes study reviewed several engineering solutions to the road problem, including the notion of a tunnel, which they thought might be the best long-term solution. The study also made clear that continuing the policy of stabilizing the dune and removing the sand might be both the cheapest and most sensitive solution. The Grand Sable Dunes were not a migrating dune, merely an eroding slope of sand. [278]

Farrell and Hughes conducted a second erosion study for the lakeshore, this one focused on the impact of Lake Superior's waves on shoreline loss. The geologists recommended closing the Mosquito Beach campground and advised that some minor adjustments be made at Miners Beach, yet their overall conclusion was that shoreline erosion would not be a major problem for the park. During the remaining years of the decade, however, the entire Great Lakes Region saw a rapid rise in water levels and, as a consequence, an increase in erosion and property damage to shoreline areas. A single December storm in 1986 caused $1.3 million in damage to suburban Buffalo. Chicago's Lakeshore Drive was swamped by heavy surf. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore experienced this unpleasant phenomenon with a flooded basement. That minor nuisance, however, was a warning that the lake was taking Sand Point at rapid rate. Farrell and Hughes documented that the shoreline configuration at the point was inherently dynamic, with erosion or deposition occurring in natural cycles. Just how long the cycle of erosion would continue, unfortunately, was unclear. Earnest Brater, a leading expert in shoreline protection, was brought in as a consultant to advise on methods of avoiding damage. In 1989, emergency funds were appropriated to place a stone boulder revetment at the end of the point. This unfortunate intrusion on the environment was necessary to slow the erosion of Sand Point and to save the headquarters complex and its historic structures from storm water damage. [279]

Some of the most important resource management work at Pictured Rocks was not the direct response to emergency conditions, as in the case of sand or water erosion, rather the long slow process of building the natural history database in order to chart the long-term impact of visitor use on the resource. In 1983, Resource Specialist Loope began a long term study of lakeshore vegetation. He established 120 vegetation transects to be investigated and restudied. After three years of study the findings became the basis of a vegetation management plan. Loope also prepared a history of fire at Pictured Rocks in order to determine the role of fire as a natural agent in forest ecology. These findings were then incorporated in the lakeshore's fire management policy. Environmental quality studies determined the level of acidity in the lakeshore's major inland lakes, a study of lichen flora reviewed its relationship to air quality, and heavy metal analysis was completed on some of the collection specimens. [280]

One of the rewards of the lakeshore's active science program was the ability to participate in numerous cooperative studies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mapped rare plant populations in the lakeshore. A fish management plan was prepared in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The lakeshore also engaged in several faunal studies in conjunction with the state and the Hiawatha National Forest. The lakeshore also benefited by hosting a wide range of student and faculty biological studies within the park. Cooperation with institutions such as Northern Michigan University, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Michigan Tech, and the University of Missouri allowed the lakeshore to monitor water quality in the buffer zone, study the endangered piping plover habitat, and document rare plants and mammals. [281]

Two of the most visible resource management projects undertaken in the lakeshore were conducted in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In June 1987, 5,000 young grayling were introduced to Section 34 Creek in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The sleek trout-like fish, with their distinctive dorsal fins, were native to northern Michigan's cold, clear streams. Logging changed the waterways and destroyed the sensitive grayling's habitat. Unfortunately, tests conducted that fall revealed that little, if any, of the fish survived. In 1989, the two agencies again tried to reintroduce a species into the lakeshore. Ten peregrine falcons were released from the top of the Pictured Rocks cliffs. "I am pleased and proud," said Regional Director Don Castleberry at public ceremony near Miners Castle, "to be part of the group returning this important predator to a part of the environment in which it once bred." Pesticide poison had eliminated the lakeshore's native peregrine population around 1962. [282]

Among the most significant discoveries of the Pictured Rocks science program was made by Northern Michigan University's Farrell and Hughes in 1990. On the Grand Sable Dune they identified a paleosol, an indication of an ancient land surface which predated the most recent glacial age. As the scientists investigated the feature they discovered that it underlaid the entire Grand Sable plateau. The paleosol discovery had major implications. Not only did it offer an opportunity to unlock new knowledge concerning the formation of the dunes, it also could shed significant light upon the impact of changing lake levels in the geological past. This discovery and the recognition of the significance and fragility of the dunes as a microenvironment led to the recent proposal of the Grand Sable Dunes as a Research Natural Area. [283]

The most controversial resource management problem the lakeshore has faced since the Beaver Basin deer crisis of the 1970s was the ban on trapping in the lakeshore. Unlike the earlier controversy this one was precipitated almost entirely by actions taken outside of the sphere of park administration. The embroilment began in 1984 when, the Department of the Interior solicitor, after reviewing the provisions of the General Authorities Act of 1970 and the Redwood National Park Act of 1978, advised the National Park Service that trapping was illegal in the parks, except where Congress specifically authorized its practice. Particularly affected by the ruling were recreation areas created during the 1960s and 1970s. Like Pictured Rocks, many of these areas' organic legislation specifically allowed hunting and fishing. At Pictured Rocks, and most other units, trapping was interpreted as a form of hunting. The solicitor ordered each unit to investigate its legislative history to determine if trapping was specifically referred to in the discussion of hunting and fishing. Of course, trapping was never mentioned during the discussion surrounding Pictured Rocks, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, and eight other units. It was illogical to expect that it would be mentioned if the general public regarded trapping as a hunting activity. Nonetheless, in January 1985 the ban went into effect. [284]

Before the solicitor's opinion was announced Chief Ranger Stone quietly inquired about how many people were trapping within the lakeshore. At best the number was twelve to fifteen, so the issue did not look like a public relations problem. Yet the trappers would not go quietly. 'We're in a minority and we just can't fight city hall," trapper Stanley Kusmirek complained, ''I think its just a dirty shame they're going to stop trapping, what next?" [285]

It was that last question, "what next?" which mobilized sportsmen's organizations and the wise use movement to involve themselves in the trapping ban. For several winters these groups listened to trappers' complaints before taking action early in 1989. The Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the National Trappers Association filed suit in federal court to lift the ban. In 1990, the District Court rejected the suit. Battle was rejoined in the Court of Appeals, but the agency's position was upheld. [286]

The damage done to the lakeshore by the controversy over the ban was much greater than any resource management benefit derived from the elimination of a dozen part-time trappers. Throughout the last half of the decade of the 1 980s the trapping ban was raised as an example of the Park Service "going back on its word" or "locking up resources." This negative image helped to fuel local uneasiness about expanding the buffer zone since trapping was legal in the buffer zone. The trapping ban complaints were being most loudly voiced at the same time the fate of Grand Island was being determined. Local discontent with the Park Service made it easier to sell the public on Forest Service ownership of the island than the more restrictive management of the lakeshore. The trapping ban cost Pictured Rocks a resource that was in short supply: community support. Lack of community support cost the lakeshore a valuable addition to the park. [287]

Cultural Resources and Interpretation

Cultural resource management within the lakeshore has not benefited from the same professional attention as natural science, but it has come a long way from the mid-1970s when potential National Register structures were destroyed without any compliance review. During the 1980s, the lakeshore made significant progress documenting and interpreting the area's archeological and maritime history resources. [288]

Most of the important visitor use areas within the lakeshore were created before the establishment of a service-wide archeological resources program. Before the mid-1980s, there was little systematic understanding of either where prehistoric cultural resources were likely to be found or what management or visitor actions were likely to be detrimental to those resources. These problems were in part resolved by a systematic archeological survey undertaken by the Midwest Archeological Center during the summers of 1985 and 1986. Utilizing National Park Service Cultural Resources (302) funds, the project provided a baseline with which the archeology of the park could be better understood. Just as important, the survey teams conducted shovel testing within most of the visitor use areas. A small site was discovered at the Coves backcountry campsite leading to the relocation of the camping area. The project provided park managers with a much better understanding of archeologically-sensitive areas within the lakeshore, although it also confirmed that the Pictured Rocks were not intensely utilized during the prehistoric era. Many of the sites discovered during the survey dated from the historic logging era--a period not fully documented within the park. [289]

The lakeshore worked very successfully to tell the maritime history of the area. This connection is both natural, for a lacustrine park, and perhaps inevitable, considering the large number of historic structures inherited from the U.S. Coast Guard. The earliest interpretation plans for the lakeshore emphasized the importance of the maritime theme The Sand Point headquarters offered an opportunity to tell the story of the U.S. Life-Saving Service on Lake Superior through an outdoor interpretive walking tour. A more in-depth exploration of this history became possible when the lakeshore acquired the Coast Guard facility at Grand Marais in 1984.

The decision of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1983 to close their Grand Marais complex was a stroke of luck for the lakeshore. The Coast Guard immediately contacted the Park Service about acquiring the property. The agency coveted the complex because it offered historic structures in an excellent location with potential not only for visitor services but permanent and seasonal employee housing. The transfer was endangered, however, when the Interior Department unexpectedly opposed the Levin-Reigle bill which included authorization to accept the property. However, in 1984 the agency negotiated a 99-year lease on the property, opening the way to the establishment of a maritime museum in the old Life Saving Station. The need to acquire the site on a permanent basis remained a nagging problem, resolvable only by congressional action because the Coast Guard structures are located outside the lakeshore boundaries. [290]

The Grand Marais Maritime Museum was a classic example of the lakeshore's "bootstrap" approach to development. There simply were not funds for a professional, Harpers Ferry Center-designed exhibit. Superintendent Petersen gave Chief Ranger Deryl Stone a small budget and told him to do what he could to get the job done. Fortunately, District Ranger Bob Lanane had an excellent rapport with the community and he was able to develop a cooperative relationship with the Grand Marais Women's Club. A broad appeal to the community for artifacts and memories was extremely successful. "I think the thing I loved most," recalled Deryl Stone, "was seeing the outpour of artifacts people took out of their attics for the museum." The museum focused on the themes "Life at the Grand Marais Life Saving Station" and "Area Shipwrecks and Rescues." The quality of the artifacts on display and the superb setting of the museum compensated for the "unpolished" presentation of the exhibits. [291]

The premier maritime artifact within the lakeshore is the Au Sable Lighthouse Elaborate plans for the interpretation of this structure at one point included having a ranger and family living at the lighthouse, permanently decked out in period garb. In 1978, the park received funds to contract a historic structure report and, in 1981, a historic furnishings study was done. Yet restoration and interpretation at the lighthouse lagged. Interpretation of the lighthouse complex was retarded by staffing shortages and the inability of the lakeshore to restore the structures. The "Lighthouse and Shipwreck Walk" were among the most popular interpretation activities at the park. Interpreter David Kronk created the living-history character "Chester," a 102-year-old witness to the heyday of the lighthouse. [292]

The occasion of the bicentennial of the U.S. Lighthouse Service provided the lakeshore with the resources to begin to move toward the complete renovation of the Au Sable complex. In 1988, Congress established the Bicentennial Lighthouse Fund which awarded Pictured Rocks funds to contract a new and expanded historic structures report and to begin restoration of the keeper's dwelling. In the years which followed, the Park Service worked incrementally to renovate the light tower and other key structures at Au Sable. [293]

During the 1980s there was a surge in popular interest in scuba diving and shipwrecks. The south shore of Lake Superior, in spite of its frigid temperature, became a popular destination for divers because of remarkably clear waters and an inordinately large number of shipwreck sites. In 1981, the State of Michigan created the Alger Underwater Preserve under the direction of the Department of Natural Resources and a local board. The preserve worked to place buoys at the sites of wrecks and attempted to promote sport diving in the area. By the mid-1980s, the Alger preserve was attracting about 5,000 divers per summer. Although most of the Popular shipwreck sites were beyond the one-fourth mile limit of the lakeshore's water boundary, the increase in diving in the area had a significant impact on park management. [294]

On the most basic level of visitor protection the lakeshore had to be able to perform emergency operations on the water. For years, the only boat available to park personnel on Lake Superior was a fourteen-foot aluminum boat at Grand Marais--it was more likely to require rescue than give it. This was augmented in 1988 with a twenty foot Boston Whaler that had been surplused by Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway. Recreational divers began to spearfish in park waters and explore underwater rock sculptures and caves near Miners Castle. While the National Park Service had concurrent jurisdiction with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the surface waters of Lake Superior within the lakeshore, the bottom lands are controlled by the State of Michigan. Nonetheless, Superintendent Petersen, a long-time diver, took a proactive role toward the shipwreck sites. A deeper understanding of the submerged cultural resources located off-shore would, he advocated, assist the park's interpretation program. The General Management Plan was also farsighted in its instruction that the Park Service work with the state of Michigan to Evaluate the National Register of Historic Places eligibility of the shipwrecks. [295]

In July 1987, the lakeshore took its first steps in this direction when it hosted a major regional workshop on underwater cultural resources. Park Service personnel from across the country, and historians and archeologists from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana attended the program. In addition to addressing a variety of management issues, the workshop members investigated several shipwreck sites within the lakeshore and in the Alger preserve. As a result, two shipwrecks beached at Au Sable Point were identified as the nineteenth-century ships Mary Jarecki and Gale Staples. The workshop led to a systematic survey of shipwrecks within the lakeshore. In 1988 and 1989, the regional office provided money for a submerged cultural resources study of the lakeshore. The project established a chronology of all known shipwrecks in the area of the lakeshore and provided detailed drawings of several of the most important underwater sites. It was an excellent example of cooperation between the National Park Service and the Alger Underwater Preserve to protect and promote the resources of the region. The project also proved to be a valuable asset to park interpreters trying to tell the exciting shipwreck story to visitors. [296]


The expansion of scientific and cultural research relative to the lakeshore played a major role in improving the quality of all interpretation at Pictured Rocks during the 1980s. The ability to offer programs and exhibits which directly used local resources to illustrate regional or national issues played an important role in the overall growth and improvement in the lakeshore's interpretive offerings. For much of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the lakeshore focused considerable attention on traditional campfire programs. Participation in these programs lagged, in part, because the three main campgrounds were rather small and to many visitors, remote. In 1982, ninety-one such programs produced a total attendance of 1,992 visitors. Park Naturalist Bruce Peterson did try experimental off-site programs at nearby campgrounds with mixed results. For a single season, 1980, lakeshore interpreters accompanied Pictured Rocks Cruises, Inc. [297]

Shortly after Superintendent Petersen's arrival, the Interpretive Prospectus was revised and the lakeshore began to experiment with alternative means of contacting visitors. Beginning in 1983 park interpreters began a program of roving contact. Interpreters frequented high traffic areas and responded to visitor questions or provided impromptu programs. The opening of the Grand Marais Maritime Museum in 1985 and the joint Forest Service-Park Service Munising visitor center in 1988, provided an increased opportunity for visitor orientation and education. The program was also strengthened by the increased use of publications to research visitors. The park newsletter, Lakeshore Observer, had its format updated and frequency boosted in 1989. Six new topical park brochures were also prepared. A year later, a sister publication, Lakeshore Update, was published in order to present more specific technical information about the park. Publications concerning hunting, fishing, and various trails were also prepared, all on recycled paper. Interpretive Specialist Gregg Bruff also reached out to the local community via a newspaper column called "Lakeshore Notes." An indication of the increasing quality of the lakeshore interpretation program was the granting of the Park Service's prestigious Freeman Tilden Award to two lakeshore interpreters, David Kronk and Gregg Bruff, during this period. [298]

The most impressive feature of the lakeshore's maturing interpretation division in recent years was its outreach programs. Interpreters worked effectively with local Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations. Even more important were the programs coordinated with the Superior Central School System. In 1990, the lakeshore hosted a day-long, in-service training workshop on environmental education for area teachers. This type of activity was rewarded in 1992 with a $208,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation which funded more lakeshore involvement with area schools and sponsored a summer science camp for students. By giving grade school students hands-on experience with natural science, the program hoped to increase young people's awareness of science as a career option. The lakeshore also took a leadership role in interpreting the park's most important natural resource, Lake Superior. Through a forum called "Thinking Like a Watershed" educators from around the Superior basin came together to share current research and compare teaching strategies. [299]

In 1993, the lakeshore added to its organizational structure an Interpretive and Cultural Resources Division, with Gregg L. Bruff named as division chief. The goal was to promote a greater awareness of cultural resources and to encourage an integrated approach to their interpretation and management. [300]

Rise of Winter Sports

The major change in the northern Michigan recreation industry during the 1980s was the successful development of a winter tourist season. For the western Upper Peninsula this was made possible by the modest success of downhill skiing in the hills of the Gogebic Range. Alger County benefited more than most communities by the growth in cross-country skiing and, even more important, snowmobiling. The snow machines made their first impact on the north country in the late 1960s, only to go into a decline during the decade of the 1970s. The sport, however, made a strong comeback in the decade of the 1980s. By 1984, winter visitors made up twenty five percent of the total Upper Peninsula tourist market. Munising became the snowmobile center for northern Michigan. [301]

The rise of Munising as a winter destination was the result of federal, state, and local initiatives. In the late 1970s, area restaurant and motel owners began to work together to attract more winter business. They formed the Alger-Munising Snowmobile Association and sold candy bars to raise money to mark and groom trails. "Hospitality training sessions" were conducted to improve the reception tourists received from townspeople. As winter business began to pick up, some motel owners began to provide heated garages so visitors could fine-tune their machines in comfort. The busiest time of the entire year became the week between Christmas and New Year's, when families flocked into town with ski racks and trailers. [302]

Yet the area's popularity rested on its snow and trails. Alger County s location on the south shore of Lake Superior assured it of snow early and often in the winter season. Thanks to the Forest Service and the Department of Natural Resources, Alger County could boast more than 250 miles of groomed trails or open forest roads. Local regulations which opened almost all municipal streets to snowmobiles and allowed the use of the frontage of the state and federal roads meant that visitors never needed their cars. James Bruce, the Forest Service's Munising District Ranger, played a large role in developing the extensive trail system in the Hiawatha National Forest. The Hiawatha's Valley Spur cross-country ski area included a concession-operated ski' rental and snackshop as well as miles of groomed trails. [303]

Pictured Rocks responded to the surge of winter use by revamping its snowmobile policy. The snow machines were welcomed on the majority of the lakeshore's unplowed roads but prohibited from the dunes or trails. Snowmobiles were also deployed on Grand Sable Lake and along the frozen Lake Superior shore. Park interpreters scheduled guided snowmobile tours from Grand Marais to Au Sable lighthouse. In some years this tour included an opportunity to climb to the top of the tower and a warm-up campfire before the return trip. Miners Castle and Munising Falls were the most popular snowmobile destinations. The falls also became the object of attention by recreational ice climbers, who perfected their skills ascending the sheer column of the frozen cascade. [304]

Cross-country skiing was perhaps the most important winter use of the lakeshore. In 1984, the park dedicated the Munising Trail as a National Recreational Trail. The ten mile route had been laid out in the early 1970s by Chief Ranger Norman Davidson and was later enhanced by District Ranger Fred Young. In December and January of 1983-84 2,222 skiers used the groomed trail. Snowshoeing was another winter sport to grow during the 1980s. The Pictured Rocks Snowshoe Classic was sponsored each winter within the lakeshore. The ten-mile January race drew contestants from throughout the region. A small but hardy group of campers used skis or snowshoes to access the backcountry during the winter. In the decade between 1978 and 1988 the lakeshore experienced a substantial increase in winter visitation, growing from one percent of total visitation to almost nine percent. Among the adaptations to this shift were the installation of heated washrooms and the weekend staffing of the visitors center at Munising Falls, the institution of a winter backcountry policy, and the increase of winter snowmobile patrols. [305]

Budget Challenges

"Welcome to 1982," National Park Service Midwest Regional Director J.L. Dunning warned his superintendents. The second year of the administration of President Ronald Reagan, he predicted, "will test your determination as a public servant and your ingenuity as a manager." Since the election of 1980, agency Director Russell Dickenson preached a gospel of austerity, calling on all units to "do more with less." Like all parks, Pictured Rocks was called upon to determine its "minimum acceptable level" of operations. Superintendent Petersen responded by pointing out that the lakeshore lacked 51% of the funds necessary to meet the minimum standard intended by Congress for the Pictured Rocks. Nonetheless, the park's budget was cut from $653,000 to $617,400. In this manner of punch and counter-punch, the lakeshore tried to implement its General Management Plan in a political climate that became increasingly unfriendly to funding park operations. [306]

Part of the frustration of managing parks in the 1980s stemmed less from the amount of money which was spent than from how the funds were committed. Operations budgets suffered in the 1980s. Parks Such as Isle Royale, for example, lost numerous backcountry ranger positions. The park plane was eliminated. Secretary of the Interior James Watt advanced a program of infrastructure development within parks, particularly those with heavy or growing visitation. This emphasis was in many cases needed but it seemed to give short shrift to the resource protection mission of the agency. Liberals castigated Watt's approach as short-sighted and dangerous to an increasingly fragile environment. Watt defended his priorities as simply putting the needs of people first. Further clouding the budgetary picture was the increased activism of Congress in the process of shaping the growth of the National Park System. Particularly during the late 1980s, controversial new parks were created and thrust on an often unenthusiastic Park Service. Funding for these new initiatives put an even greater strain on maintaining operations at existing units. [307]

With Congress split between the Democrats and the Republicans, both Secretary Watt and environmentalists tried to fund their vision of the national parks. The result was an incoherent policy and a growth in federal spending. To try and bring the national government's spending, of which the national park budget was a very small part, under some type of control, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act in 1986. Aimed at reduction, the bill mandated automatic, across-the-board spending reductions. The first year of Gramm-Rudman saw National Park Service's budget cut by 4.32% Pictured Rocks' share of this hit came out to $36,100. Petersen was forced to reduce the operating times of the visitor centers and cut numerous summer seasonal positions The interpretation program and the life guards were particularly impacted. Superintendent Petersen told the staff "the lakeshore now faces serious budgetary problems." [308]

The interpretation program tried to "roll with the punches" of the budget cuts. Sometimes regional office or WASO support could be found to maintain seasonal interpreters. This type of support in 1993, for example, allowed the lakeshore to offer thirty-three programs a week during the peak tourist season. Yet a year later, the number of programs had to be reduced to only seven per week as the lakeshore had to make due with three less seasonal interpreters. One response to limited staff was the increased reliance on self-guided walking tours and wayside exhibits. The Sand Point Trail, opened in 1991 with sixteen exhibits, was developed completely within the lakeshore. [309]

While the lakeshore was feeling the pinch of Gramm-Rudman it was also trying to implement a General Management Plan that required increased facilities and personnel. The lakeshore was generally well supported by the regional office in its attempt to keep to the track of gradually implementing the plan. A rapid growth in the number of people visiting the lakeshore helped the park grow its program in a period of austerity. By 1988, visitation to the lakeshore rose to 555,000, almost double what it had been ten years before. Travel and outdoor recreation magazines regularly featured Pictured Rocks as a destination. Newspapers as far away as Miami and Boston ran major stories on backpacking the lakeshore trail. The increased attention, in part, reflected Pictured Rocks' growing maturity as a park and in part was the result of cooperative promotion. Superintendent Petersen was personally very active in marketing the central Upper Peninsula. In 1988, he played a leading role in hosting the Upper Peninsula Tourism and Economic Development Conference. The lakeshore's growing popularity with visitors helped to sustain the growth of the park's overall budget from $653,000 in 1980, when the park had 351,815 visitors, to $939,020 in 1989, when the park had 563,823 visitors. Yet, even during this period of overall budget growth, division managers faced declining "real" dollar funding, particularly in the area of cyclic maintenance. [310]

Pictured Rocks attempted to stretch its budget through an expanded volunteers program. In 1992, for example, traditional volunteer groups such as the Boy Scouts were joined by a Lutheran service group from Fort Wayne, Indiana, a Sierra Club national service trip, and a Madonna University student club, for a total of 4,900 hours of volunteer trail work. The instituting of campground fees had no impact on the rise of visitor use and by the end of the decade of the 1 980s, they were yielding the lakeshore almost $40,000 per year. [311]

By 1993, Pictured Rocks' budget had grown to over $1 million and lakeshore visitation had climbed to 612,661. Since the acceptance of the General Management Plan in 1981, the National Park Service had instituted almost all of its goals. There were, however, two major projects which awaited implementation: the construction of a road around the rim of Beaver Basin as part of a renovated park circulation system, and the building of a new lakeshore administration and maintenance center.

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Last Updated: 05-Apr-2002