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 Four

The General Management Plan Process

          Less than a month after the dedication of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore the park was able to begin the long delayed development of a new master plan, or to use the new terminology, a general management plan.  Superintendent Brown was optimistic that the plan would evolve very quickly, in part because there had been considerable planning underway at the lakeshore.  The wilderness study was completed in 1975.  A year later “Marty” Martinek and Charles Parkinson completed, respectively, the Statement of Management and Statement of Interpretation which constituted crucial parts of the general management plan. With the help of the Federal Highway Administration a scenic road study was also in hand. To pull together these reports and shape a unified comprehensive plan for the dune park the regional office enlisted a five man Denver Service Center team: Frederick K. Babb, Project Manager; James L. Massey, interpretive planner; Richard G. Schneider, Recreation Planner; John N. Albright, historian; and John W. Hoesterey, writer/editor. The effort to complete the general management plan began in November 1977 with a two informational public meetings, one in Beulah and the other in Glen Arbor. [5]

     Aside from some brief remarks at the celebratory dedication of the lakeshore a few weeks earlier the public meeting at Glen Arbor on November 2, 1977 was Superintendent Brown’s first opportunity to represent the lakeshore before the public.  It was a baptism of fire.  A “sometimes unruly audience of about 300” gathered in the Glen Arbor Township Hall for a session that served to put the agency on notice of the strong opposition to the scenic road plan, as well as to provide a much needed-opportunity for local residents to vent their dissatisfaction with the National Park Service.  “The entire Sleeping Bear project was born in secrecy,” complained Arthur Huey, the founder of the Leelanau School.  “There has never been a mutual understanding between us.” Huey went on to accuse the park service of underestimating “the intelligence and sincerity of our residents.”  But there was little understanding of the lakeshore’s position when Superintendent Brown clearly stated he was “firmly committed” to the scenic road corridor. “It was in the orginal act of 1970 and we are responsible for its acquisition.”  That drew complaints that the agency had already made up its mind and the whole public process was a farce. “The jeers and catcalls grew louder and more frequent,” one resident recalled.  “The boys in green uniforms were starting to take on a granite hue.” Less critical observers granted that Brown “knows how to keep his cool.”  Like so many public meetings before the principal result was to draw a line in the sand between the “bureaucrats” and the “people.” [6]

     The scenic road plan was easily the most controversial issue before the general management planning team.  The road was integral to the concept of the lakeshore adopted by Congress in 1970. The vistas offered from the Glen Lake highlands were featured prominently in the prospectuses developed by the park service to promote the lakeshore bill.  Once local opposition shot down the prospect of including Glen, Platte, and Little Traverse lakes within the lakeshore the scenic road was included. The public, which was all but walled off from those lakes by private ownership, could at least look down on those beautiful blue lochs. Since park planners projected 3 million visitors annually the roads were also seen as vital to relieving traffic strain on local roads. “The 30-mile scenic road,” Secretary of the Interior Walter J. Hickel declared in 1970, “will unify the lakeshore physically and provide public access to scenic overlooks.” Although these were all important planning concerns the proposal also reflected the spirit of 1960s park developments.  Scenic drives were popular with the public and planners alike in a country encouraged by advertisers to “See the USA in your Chevrolet!” Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s organic act also contained a provision for a scenic road.  Although the concept had much to recommend it, it would also be fair to say that the provision was also a hold over of  “Mission-66” infrastructure oriented thinking. [7]

     The construction plan proposed by the Federal Highway Administration reinforced the impression the road would be a heavy-handed intrusion into the bucolic dune country landscape. Particularly controversial was a plan to bypass the town of Glen Arbor.  Influential local residents had long opposed any attempt to widen the right-of-way of M-22.  Large and beautiful pine trees hemmed in the approach to the town from the south.  Rather than bring lakeshore visitors up that road and into the confines of the town the federal highway planners proposed skirting south of Glen Arbor. The four-mile bypass would extend from M-109 to a spot on M-22 northeast of Glen Arbor. This would entail filling in a small marsh north of Glen Lake and building an overpass over the intersection of several existing roads, as well as bridging the Crystal River. Almost the entire bypass would be an elevated roadway constructed on fill at a cost of $4.3 million.  Less intrusive were the plans to run the scenic road around Glen Lake, through the uplands, almost a mile east of the lake. Nonetheless, both segments were unanimously rejected in an informal show of hands at the Glen Arbor meeting. Much less controversial was the southern approach to the lakeshore, which would lead along the Crystal highlands, affording wonderful views of the Crystal Lake embayment, Platte Lake, and Lake Michigan. [8]

     Benzie County officials strongly supported the southern portion of the scenic road, as a means of controlling traffic and as a tourist asset for their area.  The problem, not surprisingly, was with the Leelanau County portions of the proposed road.  The idea that the scenic road would encircle Glen Lake engendered fear in many owners of lake lots.  They worried that having park property on all sides of them—even if it was several miles away—would bring them under National Park Service control; perhaps even set the stage for the eventual federal acquisition of the whole of Glen Lake. Of course, there were landowners in the highland area that simply did not want to lose their property to the 150-foot federal right-of-way.  They looked for any argument to build public support for their cause of stopping “another grab by big government of private property.”  Filling in the wetland south of Glen Arbor was the very legitimate stick with which to attack the scenic road plan.  “That would be an environmental catastrophe,” declared a member of the Glen Arbor Township planning committee. Business owners in the town, faced with seeing thousands of potential customers shunted around their town responded by proposing parking plans and road improvements to allow the park drive to proceed through the town. [9]

     Even before the highway study was completed the scenic road had been a lightning rod for the discontented.  In 1977, property owners in the proposed road corridor took the National Park Service to court.  They alleged that the government had subjected them to an undue hardship when it formally notified them their lands would be within the scenic corridor, but then took no action to acquire the property.  Quite rightly, they wanted “the cloud” lifted from their titles with a clear-cut decision by the government to buy or not buy their lands.   Judge Noel P. Fox of the Western District of Michigan specifically ordered the National Park Service to “make up its mind whether it wanted property within a corridor for a proposed scenic road.”  The agency responded by speeding the road study to completion and committing themselves to acquiring the right-of-way. [10]

     For his part Superintendent Brown was by no means wedded to the Federal Highway Administration plan.  The litigation before Judge Fox had forced an affirmative decision on acquisition, Congress had authorized scenic corridors for the lakeshore and Brown meant to see that they were acquired.  He was open however, to considering whether the corridors should be motor roads or recreation trails for hiking, bikes or horseback.  Recreational uses of the corridors were part of all park plans for the scenic road right-of-way. The scenic highway report recommended that however the scenic corridors were defined during the general management plan, the National Park Service should immediately begin to make purchases along the right-of-way in order to forestall private development and escalating prices. After several months of articulating this position, Superintendent Brown was forced into an embarrassing flip-flop.  An opinion rendered by the National Park Service’s legal counsel warned the lakeshore that a strict reading of the Sleeping Bear organic act indicated that the corridors were meant for a scenic road and that if an automobile road was not going to be built, then the agency lacked the authority to purchase private land along the right-of-way. The Leelanau Enterprise-Tribune noted the progression in Brown’s pronouncements from “must” to “will” to “may” and complained that the whole process was being conducted “at a bureaucrat’s whim.” Only several months into the general management plan process it was clear that the scenic road issue would make the effort a long and difficult ordeal. [11]

     Paranoia over a “government land grab” was exacerbated by an ill-timed effort to politically reshuffle the membership of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Advisory Council.  In February 1978, Secretary of the Interior Cecil B. Andrus selected Walter B. Hart for a place on the commission.  Hart was the twenty-seven year-old son of the late Philip A. Hart. At the time young Hart was serving as the chairman of the committee to elect Democrat Dudley Buffa to the Senate seat held by Robert Griffin of Traverse City. The appointment to the unpaid commission was an understandable recognition of Senator Hart’s crucial role in the creation of the lakeshore, but dark motives were read into the action because of its timing during the planning controversy and because of Walter Hart’s partisan activities. The Record-Eagle in Traverse City broadly hinted that the appointment of young Hart, who favored gun control, was part of a liberal Democratic effort to ban hunting in the lakeshore. The Leelanau Enterprise-Tribune saw the action as a classic example of “Tammany Hall politics” by the administration of President Jimmy Carter.  These charges resonated in heavily Republican northwest Michigan because the inexperienced young Democrat was tapped to replace Professor Louis F. Twardzik, Chairman of the Park and Recreation Resources Department at Michigan State University, the single most experienced member of the commission. There was, however, no conspiracy behind the appointment. The Secretary of the Interior had the right to name two members to the commission.  He solicited two names from the Republican Senator Robert Griffin, and selected one for the commission.  Andrus also solicited two names from Democratic Senator Donald Riegle, and selected one: Walter Hart. Far from being a political operative, Walter Hart was like many baby-boomers and only just then getting over the 1960s.  He had recently enrolled as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. The young Democrat served faithfully on the commission for two years, then lost interest in making the journey four times a year from his home in Philadelphia. The commission may have missed Twardzik’s experience, otherwise the Hart appointment had no real impact. The whole flap revealed that degree to which every action related to the lakeshore underwent careful scrutiny. [12]

     While the general management plan process was underway a second area of controversy regarding the lakeshore emerged.  In June 1978, the Citizens Council of the Sleeping Bear once more demonstrated its astute sense of timing and helped to organize a legal challenge to the 1964 cutoff date for individuals with property developed after that date.  Public Law 91-479 was perfectly clear that these summer homes were not eligible for the twenty-five year or life tenancies Congress allowed to protect the rights of established property owners within the lakeshore. In 1977, the park service as a matter of convenience had granted post-1964 property owners five years to enjoy their summer homes and make a transition to new sites.  After 1982 the purchase of the bulk of the post 1964 properties would be completed and those sites could be returned to their natural state and opened to public use. The Citizens Council had long been critical of the federal government’s use of the 1964 date because the lakeshore had not even been created until 1970. Eventually thirty-six property owners joined together to file suit in Federal District Court that the Sleeping Bear organic act deprived them of their constitutional right to equal protection under the law. They claimed that all property owners of post-1964 structures were not treated alike and that the 1964 date was arbitrarily selected. [13] 

     The charge of special treatment for some landowners hung by a slender thread of validity.  The National Park Service granted one owner of a post-1964 home on Glen Lake a life tenancy instead of the mere five years other post-1964 owners were granted.  The exception, however, was granted only because it offered federal taxpayers a considerable savings.  The property in question was a choice twelve-acre tract on the south shore of Glen Lake. The owner offered to donate eleven acres of his land to the lakeshore if upon selling the remaining acre and a half, (which contained the permanent dwelling) he could use the residence for the rest of his life.  By agreeing to the deal the National Park Service acquired a tract appraised at $230,000 for $71,030.  Yet in the language of the suit brought by the other post-1964 owners the deal was characterized as “purposefully giving special treatment to those property owners who express a willingness to waive their constitutional rights to just compensation….and who make a gift of their property.” [14]

     On the heels of the announced lawsuit Charles S. Cushman swept into town.  The Citizens Council invited him to Glen Arbor for their annual meeting. The thirty-four-year-old Lake Tahoe resident was not yet the national political figure he would be in the 1980s, but he was well on his way to making himself a thorn in the side of the Department of the Interior.  He was the son of a park ranger and the owner of a small piece of property in Yosemite National Park. Cushman resented what he felt was the high-handed treatment of the National Park Service toward inholders. Only six months before his visit to Sleeping Bear Cushman had founded the National Park Landholders’ Association to provide a check on bureaucratic power in the parks and he quickly recruited more than 2,000 members.  “They have leaned over backwards to accommodate the environmentalists,” he told the Glen Arbor audience, “and have become arrogant and cavalier in their dealings with the inholders.” Cushman praised the Citizens Council for doing “a bang-up job.” [15]     

     The lawsuit of the post-1964 property owners and the Cushman visit were signals of a sea change in public attitudes toward federal land management.  In the western United States ranchers, loggers, and mining companies launched a concerted attack on the regulation of commercial leases on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management holdings. A well-intentioned, but ill-advised attempt by the Carter administration to eliminate all inholders in the National Parks brought the park service into the bull’s eye of the discontent. The agency quickly tried to backtrack from this position and in 1978 National Park Service Director William J. Whelan ordered a public review of all agency land acquisition procedures. By 1980 these embers had been fanned into what became known as the Sagebrush Rebellion.  The Presidential Campaign of Ronald Reagan popularized the anti-government rhetoric of Cushman and the Sagebrush rebels.  In 1981, on the heels of Reagan’s victory, Cushman was appointed to the National Park System Advisory Board. In Michigan the growing distrust of federal land managers surfaced in widespread opposition to the Department of Defense’s plan for a vast, secret submarine communication system in the northern part of the state.  Even worthy projects such as the North Country Trail, a hiking corridor from North Dakota to New England, drew critical scrutiny. That Sleeping Bear Dunes, long a controversial project, became the focus of property rights advocates and “wise-use” proponents was no surprise to the lakeshore staff, but it did not make the job of trying to prepare a general management plan with public input any easier. [16]

     That point was made emphatically clear when an order from Federal District Court brought the planning process to a sudden and dramatic halt. The Sleeping Bear staff and the Denver Service Center planning team had focused their initial efforts on preparing a series of management options or scenarios for the future management and development of the park.  To draw the public into the process of determining which options offered the best future for the lakeshore they had planned a series of public workshops for July 1978.  The workshops were to be held in Frankfort, Glen Lake, Glen Arbor, Traverse City, and East Lansing. The small group discussions of the workshop were designed not only to give people a chance to comment on the options envisioned by the National Park Service but to afford individuals a chance to provide their own options. But just the day before the first of the workshops were to be held Federal Judge Noel Fox issued a temporary restraining order blocking the public meetings.  Just as stunning as that thunderbolt was the source of the complaint, Mary Anne Williams of Traverse City, a long-time member of the Sleeping Bear Advisory Council.  It was, in fact, Williams’s long familiarity with the management of the lakeshore that prompted her legal action. She was one of the strongest voices on the advisory council in favor of declaring the bulk of the lakeshore as wilderness. Beginning in March 1978 she had been concerned about the relationship between the final wilderness recommendations and the general management planning process.  For several months Superintendent Brown refused to make available to her a copy of the final recommendations on wilderness, even though former Superintendent Martinek had twice let her review the report in his office. Brown reasoned that these were internal proposals until approved by the President and Congress. The Director of the National Park Service actually turned away her Freedom of Information Act request for the recommendations, claiming they were confidential recommendations to the President. It was only after threatening legal action that she was given a copy of the recommendations.  By then she was more determined than ever to see that those proposals were not diluted by some of the new alternatives under discussion as part of the general management plan. “It appears that someone in the park service decided to change the size and boundaries of the proposed acreage, and the whole wilderness plan was to be started over again at public expense as a result of the workshops,” she told the press. Mary Anne Williams called for a complete judicial review of the process. [17]

     For all of the park service’s good intentions toward involving the public in the planning process, the whole embroilment was a case study in how big the gap was between rhetoric and genuine cooperation.  There was no reason for the wilderness proposals to be kept secret from the public, let alone from an advisory commission member. The wilderness recommendations emerged from a very public series of meetings in 1974. The drafting of those recommendations had been mandated in the lakeshore’s organic act.  The same act required the National Park Service to protect the dune country from “developments and uses which would destroy the scenic beauty and natural character of the area.” Yet the general management plan team still saw fit to propose alternatives that were substantially at odds with the wilderness recommendations already made to the Secretary of the Interior. After the Williams suit was initiated Secretary of the Interior Cecil B. Andrus and the National Park Service sought to have the wilderness recommendations removed as an obstacle. After languishing in Washington, D.C. for four years the proposal was suddenly dusted off in July 1978 by the Office of Management and Budget, reviewed and rejected as incomplete. The sorry chain of events was finally broken by two actions. In early August the Midwest Region called Superintendent Brown and the Denver Service Center team to Omaha to review the situation.  A frank discussion of what everyone involved personally thought would be best for the future of Sleeping Bear revealed that there was virtual unanimity supporting the basic thrust of the wilderness recommendations. It was decided to change the management alternatives to conform to the wilderness proposal.  The Superintendent then met with Mary Ann Williams and arranged an out-of-court settlement of her suit.  They agreed that the planning workshops could be used to refine those elements of the wilderness plan that had been altered in the past four years.  After a month the restraining order was lifted and the workshops were rescheduled. [18]

     By the summer of 1978 the planning process that Superintendent Brown began so optimistically nine months before appeared to be in shreds. This appearance was not lost on the critics of the lakeshore or the press.  In July an Ann Arbor News editorial charged “National park policy failing in Michigan.” Superintendent Brown was personally chastised for opposing the wilderness recommendations and “misguidedly” promoting a “diversity of uses.” Taking a strong environmentalist position the lakeshore was also criticized by the newspaper for allowing the Warnes Dunemobiles to operate and for the old Stocking drive, both of which allowed cars to traverse portions of the dunes.  “The only way to see the dunes the way they really are….is to climb the dunes and walk the crest and/or walk up to them on the Lake Michigan shoreline.”  Brown was stung by the attack from environmentalists in the very city in which he had so recently lived.  Less temperate criticism cascaded into the park headquarters.  Using the soap-box of the Leelanau Enterprise-Tribune one of the more extreme critics charged, “Underneath every green park service uniform lurks at least a spot of red…..we still know a Commie when we see one.” [19]  

     The battered planning process got back on track in November 1978. More than 900 planning alternative workbooks were distributed. The troublesome issues of wilderness and the scenic road were joined by a third major concern: should a harbor be built within the lakeshore to enhance boating opportunities on Lake Michigan and provide access to the island units of the park.  The original master plan had called for the building of a boat launch and marina on Platte Bay, although it envisioned the larger boats needed to take visitors to North and South Manitou would be based at existing harbors in Frankfort and Leland. In September the Leelanau County Board voted to “remind” the National Park Service they were on record as opposing the extra traffic and congestion brought to Leland by having the island ferry based at their harbor. [20]

     The heart of the planning workshops was a discussion of planning alternatives for each of the major divisions of the lakeshore.  These alternatives were presented in a workbook that included maps of the lakeshore and a space for participants to make comments on the alternatives presented.  The North Manitou Island unit was proposed to be managed largely as a wilderness.  One alternative offered a very rustic experience with no buildings, roads, or trails maintained on the island as well as no designated camping or landing areas. The second alternative was to maintain a small number of buildings for visitor orientation and support.  This plan would also support maintenance of the deer herd and the building of an all-weather dock.  The South Manitou alternatives posed a similar set of choices.  On one hand the island could be a wilderness camping preserve or some of its historic buildings could be preserved and interpreted and camping could be controlled in several designated campgrounds.  The Good Harbor Planning Unit included alternatives, which allowed for the maintenance of agricultural scenes on the lands south of M-22, hang-gliding at Pyramid Point, and the building of a nature center on School Lake. The Empire Unit alternatives contrasted a future of minimal developments with one that included a nature center at Otter Creek, the interpretation of agricultural scenes along M-22, and the building a full-scale harbor at the town of Empire. The widest range of alternatives was offered for the Glen Lake Unit.  The most nature-friendly proposal called for the abandonment of the scenic road proposal, the allowance of natural succession to reclaim farmlands, and the closing of the Hart Nature Trail to automobile traffic. Other options offered the utilization of the historic buildings in Glen Haven for interpretation purposes and the maintenance of agricultural fields, and the building of a harbor in Sleeping Bear Bay. [21] 

     The first of the workshops was held in Glen Arbor. Fifty people assembled at the Leelanau School to review the alternatives presented in the planning workbooks.  After a few general remarks by Superintendent Brown the audience was divided into small groups for issue oriented discussion.  As one group spokesperson said of her group’s conclusion, “There was a feeling they wanted to leave what’s here, now.”  This included leaving the dune ride concession open and opposing the tearing down of homes within the lakeshore. Another group asked that the historic values of South Manitou be preserved along with the island’s natural setting. The scenic drive was singled out as the biggest single threat to “what’s here, now.”  Among the few new construction projects endorsed by the workshop group was the building of a harbor at Glen Haven, although one participant joked that maybe the ferries should stay at Leland “so they get a chance to share some of our troubles.” In a more serious vein, some of the groups called for a new Glen Haven harbor to provide a base for trailered boats as well as a commercial tour boat that could give visitors a view of the dunes from the lake. [22]

     The Benzie County workshop was held at Benzie Central High School.  Surprisingly the people who participated in the small group discussions disagreed with the county planners who generally supported the scenic road through the Crystal Highlands.  While some liked the idea that even if the road was not built the corridor might make an excellent hiking or biking trail, others complained that “visitors could not be trusted to stay within the boundaries of the corridor but would likely stray onto private property.” The Benzie audience also responded very favorably to the alternative of building a new harbor at Glen Haven. [23]

     The best attended of the workshops was that held in Lansing, Michigan, which offered summer residents and environmentalists an opportunity to comment on the alternatives.  If there was a common theme that emerged from all of the workshops, it was the genuine public concern to preserve what was best about the Sleeping Bear environment.  The scenic corridor was roundly disparaged.  One participant noted: “It is unthinkable to me that the National Park Service, which I always thought was dedicated to preserving the beauty of the country, would plan and promote a project which would cut a mammoth scar across the beautiful hills on the north shore of Crystal Lake.”  On the other hand, there were those who saw the acquisition of the corridor, without building the road as “beneficial for resource protection and recreation.”  Workshop participants tried to find the right balance between development and preservation.  For the island units the public did not favor the alternatives which offered sparse or no development, rather they wanted the bulk of the islands to be managed as wilderness but for the park service to promote visitor access via trails, docks, and camping controls.  At Glen Lake, where existing recreational developments were most intense, the public favored the least development-oriented alternatives.  Similarly the public opposed turning the Platte River into a haven for large motorized boats.  There were, of course, contradictions in the public’s choice of alternatives.  The majority of people addressing the issue of access to the islands favored moving the transportation docks to a new location, in deference to Leland’s complaints of congestion. Yet the respondents also opposed increasing visitor activities in the already crowded Glen Arbor-Glen Haven area—the most logical site of an alternative harbor.  Also ambiguous was the public response to motorized access to the dunes.  Outright removal of Warnes’s dune ride was advocated by forty-seven percent of the respondents, while another forty-seven percent favored keeping, perhaps in a reduced fashion, the ride. The Hart Nature Trail, the only scenic drive in the lakeshore, was overwhelming favored for retention by the very same workshop attendees who opposed building the Glen Lake Highlands scenic drive. Nonetheless, the workshops were a success.  They were a rare occasion for the National Park Service to engage with stakeholders in a non-confrontational manner; providing a much-needed chance for a genuine exchange of ideas about the future of the Sleeping Bear country. [24]

     An offshoot of the planning process was a groundswell of local support to change the name of the Hart Nature Trail.  The idea first surfaced at a public meeting in Glen Arbor, perhaps as a backlash to the appointment of young Walter Hart to the Sleeping Bear Advisory Council.  Certainly there was no love of the memory of Senator Philip A. Hart in the hearts of many Sleeping Bear property owners.  Kathleen Stocking, the daughter of Pierce Stocking and a respected regional author, put a more positive spin on the issue by suggesting that the change would be a matter of “giving credit where credit is due.” She suggested that “Since my father designed and made those scenic trails and lookouts, it would seem only right that they be named after him.” Superintendent Brown approached the family of the late Senator concerning the issue.  The family graciously and unanimously approved the name change, with Walter Hart himself making a formal resolution to that effect through the advisory commission. “Our family does understand the many sacrifices people have made for this park,” commented Walter Hart. The name change was a well-timed olive branch to the people of Leelanau County. [25]

     Through the winter and spring of 1978-1979 the planning team reviewed the results of the workshops and drafted the general management plan.  That plan was strongly influenced by the workshop process.  The balance between public access and wilderness requested by the public for the islands and mainland units was well incorporated into the plan.  The vexing issue of establishing a harbor for recreational boaters and the island ferry was deferred to a special study to be given the lakeshore’s “highest priority” and to be completed within three years.  Most important of all, however, was the decision to abandon the scenic road in Leelanau County.  The draft plan did continue to call for the acquisition of 1,125 acres of land in Benzie County to make possible a scenic drive along the Crystal Highlands as well as the purchase of 2,140 acres in the Miller Hill and Bow Lakes area of Leelanau County.  The plan called for legislative action to allow the lakeshore to make the latter purchase in order to: “protect the significant natural features and scenic vistas and backdrops for Glen Lake.” Bold plans were presented for the lakeshore’s historic resources with “as many structures as feasible” preserved and interpreted on South Manitou Island and in the Port Oneida area, and the village of Glen Haven was to be closed off from automobile traffic and adaptively reused for visitor services. Empire was selected as the site of a combined park headquarters and “interpretive facility.” [26]

     “The Park Service has responded clearly and creatively to the public input received during the recent planning process,” was Mary Anne Williams’s response to the draft.  The lakeshore critic who had to file suit in federal court to stall the beginning of the planning greeted the draft with “relief and pleasure.”  The plan committed the lakeshore to maintaining five areas in the park as wilderness zones.  A sixth zone, part of the original wilderness proposal sent to Washington, D.C. in 1975, was dropped from wilderness consideration with the concurrence of environmentalists.  The Sleeping Bear Plateau could not be considered a wilderness area once it was determined that the Pierce Stocking/Hart Scenic Road would remain in place and open to vehicle use. The draft general management plan had the solid backing to Michigan’s environmental community, but it was not as well-received by the landowners of Leelanau County. [27]

     During the summer of 1979 the draft plan was distributed to the public and a series of hearings were scheduled to air comments and critiques.  The later were quick in coming at the Glen Arbor hearing.  The Citizens Council of the Sleeping Bear Area denounced the called for acquisition of Miller Hill and Bow Lakes lands as “a complete surprise and blatant land grab.”  Fortunately the mood at the hearing lacked the confrontational tone of previous public meetings, but Robert Knowles, leader of the Citizens Council, made clear that his group would strongly oppose any effort to change the lakeshore’s legislation to in order to allow it to acquire more land.  County and township officials supported this position. With great suspicion the Council regarded the effort to preserve sensitive lands as a covert park service scheme to encircle Glen Lake. Having failed to get the scenic drive approved as a unit the agency was seen as trying to acquire the highlands on the installment plan, piece by piece.  At the August 14th meeting at Glen Arbor Superintendent Brown and planning team leader Fred Babb attempted to defuse such paranoia by responding favorably to Citizens Council suggestions that zoning be encouraged to protect vulnerable upland tracts.  Brown and Babb also agreed that Section 12 of the lakeshore’s organic act be changed to forever remove the authorization for the scenic road in Leelanau County.  Further they agreed that there would be “no authority to condemn lands for any purpose outside the existing National Lakeshore boundaries.” “This is no land grab,” Brown contended and he pledged himself to work with the Citizens Council “to make the scenic corridor issue one of the past.” [28]

     But Superintendent Brown’s support of the Citizens Council’s objections to the draft plan was premature.  Neither he nor Fred Babb had cleared such a change with the regional office in Omaha.  What appeared like an agreement on the plan in August, fell to the ground like an autumn leaf that fall.  Insulated from local complaints and anxious to protect the validity of planning process, James L. Dunning, Director of the Midwest Regional Office, refused to back away from the proposed acquisition of Miller Hill lands and the Bow Lakes. The General Management Plan approved by Director Dunning included the acquisition of new lands. It was an embarrassing flip-flop for the park superintendent. It seemed to validate the quip of one critic, “he talks a good game, but when you come right down to it he’s a puppet.” Furious, the Citizens Council accused Dunning of ignoring the “opposing voices of the public, their elected township and county officials, and your own Lakeshore Advisory Commission. You even overruled your own Project Manager and your Park Superintendent.”  In a full-page public letter printed in the Traverse City Record-Eagle the park critics predicted “We successfully fought your effort to encircle Glen Lake in one huge corridor bite. We will continue to fight any effort to encircle us by a series of little bites, acre by acre, year by year.” [29]

     Meanwhile, back in Omaha the Sleeping Bear General Management Plan was accepted.  On November 12, 1980, Regional Director Dunning announced that the plan would move to the implementation stage.  Due to the extensive public involvement in the preparation of the plan it was decided that no environmental impact statement would be required.  Sleeping Bear finally had a blueprint for its future, even if major issues, such as the location of the harbor and the fate of the post-1964 inholders remained an open question.  Superintendent Brown, the planning team, and the lakeshore staff were successful at bringing the dune country’s stakeholders into the process.  In the areas of wilderness designation and the scenic road corridor the public had a decisive impact on the new general management plan.  Nonetheless, the new plan left the park service in the familiar position of remaining locked in disagreement about the issue of land acquisition. Rather than serving as a vehicle for ending conflict with the local community the planning process served to muffle and transmute those disputes.  The tone became more civil but it would take congressional action to resolve the impasse over land acquisitions. [30]

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

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