Cover to A Nationalized Lakeshore: The Creation and Administration of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Cover Page


Table of Contents


Chapter One,
"National Parks Are Where You Find Them:" The Origins of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Chapter Two,
"We're Going For The Right Thing:" The Legislative Struggle to Create Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1971- 1977

Chapter Three,
Changes on the Land: The Early Management of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1977-1983

Chapter Four
Plans, Programs and Controversy: The Reassessment of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1977-1983

Chapter Five,
"A Local and National Treasure:" Managing the Sleeping Bear Dunes Park, 1984- 1995

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore At Twenty-Five

Appendix One,
Budgetary Progress of Sleeping Bear Dunes N.L.

Appendix Two,
Selected Past and Present Employees of Sleeping Bear N.L.

Appendix Three,
Selected Visitation Statistics

Appendix Four,
Public Law 91-479

Chapter 1 Notes

Chapter 2 Notes

Chapter 3 Notes

Chapter 4 Notes

Chapter 5 Notes

Conclusion Notes




A Nationalized Lakeshore:
The Creation and Administration of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Chapter Two

New Approches, Old Problems

     Senator Hart’s characteristic doggedness, his unwillingness to surrender a principled point was demonstrated by his willingness to follow S.2153 with a new bill in July 1962. The legislative initiatives which followed that ill-fated first bill all were the result of a much higher degree of personal involvement, if not by the Senator himself, then by Hart’s staff.  The Senator was much less inclined to trust the National Park Service.  He told the press that he was “as much on the side of the original bill’s critics as a defender of the Park Service.” Hart wanted less involvement by Conrad Wirth and Stewart Udall and more by William Welsh, his highly respected principal aide.[21]

     But like it or not Hart and the park service were joined at the hip and warily they worked together to make another attempt at creating a park.  Hart’s staff, understandably, was concerned with finding a formula to mollify the inland lake property owners.  While the park service was open to doing this they were constantly concerned about setting a precedent that might affect other national seashore projects such as Point Reyes and Padre Island.  Neither the agency or Hart’s office wanted to swap land for peace, by reducing the acreage of the proposed lakeshore.  But William Welsh did propose creating a narrow zone composed of the built-up sections of shoreline which would be fully exempt from the park so long as adequate zoning was in force.  People in these zones would be totally outside the control of the Secretary of the Interior.  In Welsh’s view such a provision might have the effect of “cracking off” a portion of the solid phalanx of opposition arrayed before them, by “causing jealousy and resentment on the part of homeowners not included in one of the zones.” The concept of a private exclusionary zone within the park, in effect, promised most inland lakeshore property owners there would be no condemnation acquisitions.  Hart also added to the bill a twenty-five year moratorium on public access to the inland lakes from lands acquired from willing sellers.  With these provisions they hoped to remove the image of Glen Lake crowded with unwashed urban masses as well as the unpopular specter of a federal land grab. [22]

     The fruit of their cooperation was Senate Bill 3528, but before Senator Hart introduced the bill in July 1962, his office and the park service’s Allen Edmunds embarked on a careful campaign of preparing the people in the local area. Edmunds in particular was heartened by the first signs of popular support for the park he found budding beneath the winter snows. With the majority of their influential “summer neighbors” back  home in the cities to the south a number of influential people in northwest Michigan began to emerge as supporters of a Sleeping Bear park.  All of them agreed that the original bill had been badly bungled but that the basic idea was one that could attract local support.  Organizations like the Motel Association of Traverse City naturally were open in their support of the project, but Edmunds found that the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce was not immune to the lure of national park dollars either.  Judge Ormond S. Danford, well-connected in Traverse City political circles, assured Edmunds in February 1961, that if a “referendum were held today 95% of the people of the Grand Traverse region would favor a park—not necessarily this proposal, but some form of park.” In Benzie County Edmunds found the same signs of an emerging pro-park leadership.  Max Goin, chair of the Benzie County Board, told Edmunds that he had voted to reject the park plan out of sensitivity to his constituents, but that he was personally in favor of a dunes park and was sure that a better bill would win the support of the majority of the board.  John Peterson, editor of the Benzie County Patriot, offered his support in the up-coming struggle.  The strongest thing in favor of the park proposal, all supporters agreed, was the fact that most people felt that some type of federal dunes park was now inevitable.  This sentiment became all the stronger in March 1962 when President John F. Kennedy delivered a special  conservation message.  Sleeping Bear Dunes was one of ten new park areas specifically named by the President as necessary to the nations’ “increased need for additional recreation areas.” [23]

     The changes proposed by Senator Hart in S. 3528 were designed to throw the opposition Citizens’ Council off-balance and feed the encouraging signs of growing local support.  But Ove Jensen and the other home owners groups were not so easily outflanked.  During the winter Jensen and his group had worked to promote township zoning in the areas proposed for park status. It was a divisive, thorny issue that split the community on economic lines, but by beginning the issue themselves the Citizens’ Council was able to effectively make the point to the folks at home that this was not an issue they would want to defer to the Secretary of the Interior.  At the same time, Jensen could argue to the press that there was no need to have the federal government come into the Sleeping Bear to save it, because the local people were already acting to preserve the area. Also, just as Hart’s changes to the bill were beginning to be circulated, the Citizens’ Council launched their own public relations drive.  Don Gordon, a savvy publicist and a veteran Republican party activist, authored a scathing article for the March issue of Michigan Challenge magazine: “Sleeping Bear, A Big Idea with Little Merit.”  He used the forum to attack Hart’s amendments to the original bill before they could be formally introduced.  Those changes, he argued, “would soften the language of the bill to some extent, but it still would have sharp teeth and still would take the same 77,000 acre bite.”  Even before S.3528 was introduced it was painted with the same brush as the earlier bill and the Citizens’ Council vowed to fight it “every step of the way.” [24]

     Even though the opposition had announced that the new bill was dead on arrival Allen Edmunds and two Hart staffers lobbied their way through Leelanau and Benzie counties. People in the area were still badly uninformed as to the provisions of the original bill, let alone Senator Hart’s revisions. At public meetings Edmunds demonstrated patience and willingness to listen that had been sadly lacking in Wirth and Udall’s previous attempts to impress local residents.  Raised on a Michigan farm, Edmunds conveyed genuine sympathy for property owners swept-up in the park controversy.  Yet he had personally seen almost every foot of shoreline on the Great Lakes, and he passionately believed in the importance of the park.  In Edmunds the park service had at last found an effective advocate in northwest Michigan.  But no matter how effective Edmunds and William Welsh were, opposition to the park remained high.  In fact, based on a survey taken at the time, it was clear that the more people knew even about the revised bill, the stronger they were in opposition. Public meetings and private consultations had the effect of lowering the decibel level of the dispute, but they could not mute the opposition. [25]

     A small, but significant change made in this second Hart proposal was the substitution of the phrase “National Seashore” for “National Recreation Area.”  The recreation area tag had been applied to both Sleeping Bear and Pictured Rocks because they had been identified by the Shoreline Survey, whose purpose had been, in part, to identify prime shoreline recreation areas.  To the homeowners in the Sleeping Bear area the term connoted a heavily developed area overrun by swarms of Chicagoans and Detroiters—the summer-homeless working class some long-time residents dismissed with the term “fudgies.” Nor was this characterization far from what many park service staff thought of as recreation areas.  Northeast Regional Director Ronald Lee admitted, in 1961, that the term “carries an implication of use development which would increase the activity use pressures on any area under such a category.” Lee favored the status of “National Monument” for Sleeping Bear but felt that in the early 1960s there was too much development within the park area to meet such a standard.  The term “National Seashore” was borrowed from successful ocean-front parks at Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod.  These parks embodied a compromise between recreational development and the preservation of the natural landscape.  The incongruity of referring to the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as a “Seashore” prompted the coining in 1963 of a new label for the mixed use shoreline parks of the Great Lakes: “National Lakeshore.” Defining just what a National Lakeshore was remained a work-in-progress for the next two decades as legislation creating such entities in Indiana, Wisconsin, as well as Michigan sought to devise formulas which balanced the needs of local communities and unique environments. [26]

     Further contributing to the confusion of terms was the introduction of a bill to create a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park by Congressman Robert P. Griffin in January 1963.  Up for reelection, the Republican congressman needed a way to gain the initiative on the park controversy in his district.  House Resolution 2400 was well calculated to demonstrate the congressman’s support for a federal park in his district and still make clear his solidarity with aggrieved property owners.  Griffin dusted off the original park service plan for Sleeping Bear, a dunes park that omitted the inland lakes and uplands.  With 54,000 acres less than Hart had called for the plan looked a little light.  Griffin solved that ingeniously by adding in his bill the 14,000 acre North Manitou Island, which Secretary Udall had earlier advocated.  That increased the size of Griffin’s proposed park to 37,000 acres.  As a salve to the homeowners in the area Griffin’s bill specified that none of the nearly one hundred improved properties within his proposed boundary would be subject to condemnation.  Griffin claimed that his reason for introducing the bill was to bring “this prolonged Sleeping Bear controversy” to a head during “this session of Congress.” [27]

     But bringing the issue to a head was the last thing that came from his new park bill. Hart put up a brave front, saying he was “delighted” to have Griffin become a Sleeping Bear park supporter.  “The remaining issue is the size of the park,” Hart asserted.  But no matter how the Senator tried to spin the rival bill there were deep ideological issues dividing his conception of Sleeping Bear from Griffin’s.  While Hart liked to describe his plan as a “moderate alternative” to the large park proposed by Stewart Udall, the fact was that he envisioned a major park service presence in northwest Michigan.  As he indicated in a latter press release, “A national park development should include scenic overlooks, scenic drives, trails, campsites, and unspoiled, timbered countryside.” Hart was a classic Democratic liberal, unafraid of a large public expenditure to produce a result of lasting value to Michigan and the nation.  Griffin was a young Republican who was open to innovative conservation projects but suspicious of federal efforts to override local autonomy with a massive influx of federal dollars.  In the classic mode of a mainstreet, Midwestern Republican he was a fiscal conservative conscious of budget deficits.  Unabashedly he lashed out at Hart’s proposal at the Traverse City hearing by saying it would “contribute needlessly to a weakening of the Nation’s economic strength at a very critical time in history when we need every ounce of strength we can muster.”  Griffin, who would later work on behalf of President Richard Nixon’s abortive “New Federalism” which was designed to return both decision making and money from the federal to state and local governments, favored a park in which the Department of the Interior worked cooperatively with the Michigan Department of Conservation.  The idea that Secretary Udall would have control over local zoning and that a large number of citizens would have their property rights circumscribed was ideologically abhorrent to Griffin.  The liberal spirit of the 1960s was on Hart’s side, while Griffin’s position resonated only in northwest Michigan.  But the legislative traditions of the United States Congress lent significance to the young minority congressman’s opposition because parks generally were not created over the objections of dissenting representatives.  If Sleeping Bear was going to become a park Hart would have to compromise his vision of the type of area it would become and Griffin would have to yield at least a little on his conservative principles.[28]

     Congressman Griffin’s proposal was the first Sleeping Bear bill to propose the addition of North Manitou Island to the lakeshore park.  Although Secretary Udall had earlier recommended its inclusion neither the National Park Service nor its supporters in Michigan, such as Genevieve Gillette, thought the island merited inclusion.  “There wasn’t the scenery on North Manitou—it was largely big woods,” she later recalled. Nonetheless, North Manitou was pushed by Congressman Griffin and even more aggressively by local politicians in northwest Michigan.  When Gillette tried to press Traverse City’s state senator, William G. Milliken as to why he advocated the island’s inclusion he coyly answered, “Well, maybe we need it for wilderness.” North Manitou did offer 14,000 acres of wilderness, but it also was an opportunity for the island’s owners to exchange a burdensome responsibility for a large federal buy-out.  The island was owned by the Angell Foundation, the trustees for the estate of William R. Angell, former President of Continental Motors Corporation.  Angell had operated the island as a retreat and game preserve, but it was an expensive drain on financial resources.  With both Udall and the Michigan legislators pushing for the inclusion of the island, the National Park Service sponsored a fly-over for members of the Michigan Parks Association and representatives of the National Wildlife Foundation, Audubon Society, and the Wilderness Society.  In spite of low clouds Stewart Brendborg of the Wilderness Society “was impressed by North Manitou as a wilderness addition to the proposed Lakeshore.”  From that time on North Manitou became part of the park planned and advocated by the park service, although it did not wish its additional acreage to come into the plan at the expense of mainland tracts.[29]

      Senator Hart showed no willingness to compromise on the size of the mainland unit when in February of 1963 he introduced S.792.  The new bill was roughly identical to S.3528, save for some minor modifications designed to reduce the period of uncertainty faced by property-owners should a park be created: all residential owners could obtain twenty-five-year leases and hardship sellers would have to be accommodated within one year of authorization.  The most important features of Hart’s plan, however, its 77,000 acres and the inclusion of the inland lakes remained unchanged.  In lieu of Congressman Griffin’s support Hart could point to a companion bill to S.792 introduced by Neil Staebler.  Congressman Staebler was was a long-time Democratic party activist from Ann Arbor.  Due to its growing population Michigan was awarded another congressional seat in 1962, but because the state legislature could not come up with a redistricting plan before the congressional election it was decided to elect a one-term congressman-at-large.  Staebler won the seat.  He could speak for all of Michigan in the House of Representatives, but he had the liability of being a lame-duck from the day he arrived since redistricting would take his seat in two years.  Rather than resolve the differences between his and Griffin’s approaches, Hart grasped at Staebler’s temporary support and tried to push ahead.  The Senator’s influence was such that he was able to prevail upon the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs to hold new hearings on Sleeping Bear, in Washington, D.C. in March and in the field in July 1963. [30] 

     The Washington, D.C. hearings were on Senator Hart’s turf and were an effective platform from which to demonstrate the progress he had made toward resolving the vexing Sleeping Bear issue.  Both local citizens and politicians wrote or spoke in favor of S.792.  One resort owner on Crystal Lake wrote that the new bill “gives us the protection we must have for our natural resources, yet sacrifices none of the fundamental property rights we have always enjoyed.”  Hart could also point to local newspaper editorials and county-wide public officials who were now in favor of a Sleeping Bear park.  In contrast the opposition looked uninspired, and impertinent.  They were most effective when counteracting the park service funded economic projections for the park, with much more realistic data from their own studies. They were least effective when their attacks became personal.  Senator Alan Bible, (D) Nevada, twice interrupted the testimony of W.F. Meinhard of Maple City, Michigan, finally saying: “I am sure Senator Hart is acting from the highest possible motives. I do not see where you accomplish one bit in coming before a committee and impugning his motives.”  The hearing closed with a promise by Senator Bible to visit the Sleeping Bear area that summer [31]

     That visit took place July 3-4, 1963.  Senator Bible and three other members of his subcommittee  were on grueling tour that included field hearings and tours of proposed parks in Oregon, Kansas, Utah, and Missouri.  They flew over the entire proposed lakeshore and enjoyed a driving tour of the mainland scenic sites.  Late in the afternoon of the Fourth of July a brief field hearing was held in the auditorium of the Frankfort High School.  In spite of the holiday the school was packed with 1,500 spectators.  The legislators entered under a sign that read: “Welcome Senators—Let Sleeping Bears Sleep.” [32]

     As the sign indicated, the Frankfort hearing was a well-staged pep-rally for the park proposal opposition.  The efforts of Hart’s office and the involvement of Allen T. Edmunds had lowered rhetoric of the dispute over the course of the year.  There was genuine optimism among park boosters that the tide of local popular opinion was starting to turn in their direction.  The Frankfort hearing dispelled that delusion and demonstrated that Ove Jensen and the Citizens’ Council were still a skilled and formidable force.  Jensen had pressed Senator Alan Bible to visit the area and when the invitation was accepted the former made sure that the itinerary was not left completely in the hands of the National Park Service.  Jensen personally took the senators out on Glen Lake in his boat and showed them the summer homes threatened by the Hart bill.  The area was carefully manicured for the visit.  Along the roads obnoxious signs were removed and all trash picked-up. At the hearings they presented a petition, supported by better than 18,000 signatures, condemning S.792.  Organized by a housewife from Birmingham, Michigan, the petition resonated more in the red, white, and blue atmosphere of the hearing than Genevieve Gillette’s presentation of letters of support from conservation groups representing 750,000 members.  The most heartening moment for the opposition came at the end of the hearing when Senator Milward Simpson fired a withering concluding broadside at S.792.  Simpson was a colorful and rare species in American politics—an unabashed 1930s Republican.  The former governor of Wyoming was dedicated to opposing big government on all fronts.  In another generation he would have been honored as a sagebrush rebel, but in the 1960s he was simply a throw-back to a discredited era.  “I want to say to you that I’ve read this bill backwards and forwards,” he proclaimed.  “It shrieks with condemnation, it shrieks with authority….once the Park Service gets into the area, they’ll take over…..I think it’s a violation of individual freedom. I think the thing should be stopped. I’m hoping that Senators Hart and McNamara will withdraw their bill.”  A storm of applause swept over the auditorium.[33]       

     The 1963 hearings were a critical moment in the fight to make a Sleeping Bear park.  The fact-finding and site visit had convinced the majority of the subcommittee, Senator Simpson not withstanding, that the time had come to move forward.  The marked-up bill that was reported out of the committee contained many features that are part of the lakeshore today.  The inland lake areas were removed from the park, eliminating more than 25,000 acres, all but 288 private structures from the plan, and ending the need for Senator Hart’s complicated lakeshore zones.  To maintain the viability of the park service’s upland scenic vistas and the park road system, two scenic highway corridors were cobbled together from the remaining inland acreage.  In deference to people who had improved property in the area since the original Hart bill, the cut off date for approved structures was advanced to December 31, 1962.  Thus modified S.792 was approved by the full Senate in December 1963.  A solid, reasonable Sleeping Bear bill had received the strong support of the upper house but because of Congressman Griffin’s opposition and that of Representative Charlotte Reid (R—Illinois), who had a home on Crystal Lake, it did not have a chance to win approval in the lower house.  The Sleeping Bear bill was sent to the over-burdened House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, of which Reid was a member, where it languished, without a hearing, without a reading, without any consideration whatsoever.  Senate Bill 792 lapsed when the Eighty-eighth Congress adjourned at the end of 1964. [34]

     The unwillingness of Representative Robert Griffin to either support Hart’s compromises or advance his own still-born park proposal delayed the creation of a Sleeping Bear Park (which could, perhaps should, have taken place in 1964-1965) for an unnecessary additional five years.  Those five years, to paraphrase Senator Hart, produced very little light and a great deal of heat.  In northwest Michigan the Frankfort hearing served to reignite the bitter and vitriolic atmosphere of the original Hart bill.  As Genevieve Gillette left the Frankfort High School auditorium she was confronted by a group of friends with homes in the park area.  They looked her in the eye and then without saying a word, as a group, turned their backs on her.  Ted Carland, who operated a lumber and building supply business, suffered an immediate fall in business when he publicly supported the park bill at the Frankfort hearing.  Such was the climate of opinion that even customers who stuck with him occasionally requested that when he delivered building materials that he use an unmarked truck, so that neighbors would not know they were doing business with a park supporter.  Edward Bradley, a Standard Oil distributor in Benzie County, supported the park because he thought it would be a shot-in-the-arm for local business.  Then he received a call from the corporate headquarters. “What’s going on up there,” they asked after having received a flood of cancelled Standard Oil credit cards from irate former customers.  Bradley, like others, had been put on an “enemy list” by the opposition. [35]

The bitterness and persistence of this opposition stemmed from the simple and obvious fact that some year-round residents and some summer home owners would lose their property to the proposed national park.  As the park plans became clearer and less intrusive that threat was greatly reduced in fact, but not in perception.  People chose sides on the issue at a very early date and did not change their minds as Senator Hart’s proposals evolved.  The Senator and the National Park Service did not have credibility in their eyes.  Political ideology had a modest impact on how people perceived the issue.  Democrats and Republicans were on both sides of the dispute.  John Daugherty, Benzie County’s  Republican prosecutor, like other younger men was instinctively in favor of the park, which he saw as a solution to the area’s chronic sixteen per cent unemployment.  The fact that northwest Michigan was overwhelmingly Republican and Michigan’s two Democratic senators were sponsoring the legislation, however, made the fight seem partisan.  An attitudinal survey conducted in the area during the summer and fall of 1962 revealed that eighty-four percent of Republicans were strongly opposed to the park, while only forty-six percent of Democrats were strongly opposed.  Geography and class also shaped the conflict.  Senators Hart and McNamara were strongly identified with Democratic dominated Detroit and the influence of the United Auto Workers (UAW).  The powerful union, then at the peak of its influence in local and national politics, was an enthusiastic supporter of the expansion of the National Park Service.  The UAW tended to see Sleeping Bear, as a Detroit News editorial characterized the issue, as a choice: “For All, or a Few?”  Summer home owners from Detroit and Chicago, who tended to be professionals or white-collar workers, sometimes quipped that the intent of Hart’s bill was to create a “UAW park.” [36]

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Last Modified: January 10, 2001 10:00:00 am PST

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