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Contact: Bruce Huffman, 231-326-5134
Two projects, one to re-light the lighthouse on SouthManitouIsland, and another to eradicate Baby’s Breath at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore may soon become a reality. The projects are part of a National Park Service (NPS) initiative designed to prepare the NPS for its centennial anniversary in 2016. This program provides incentive for non-profit partner groups and philanthropists to donate to National Parks by matching their donations with federal funds for Centennial Initiative projects. The two projects at Sleeping Bear, totaling about $280,000, were among a group of 201 projects deemed eligible by NPS officials for the federal funding match. NPS Director Mary Bomar and Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced the first round of “certified eligible” Centennial Initiative projects at a press conference in Yosemite National Park today to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the NPS.
“The National Park Service has, after a rigorous review, certified these proposals as eligible for centennial challenge matching funds,” Bomar said. “And they are ready to go in Fiscal Year 2008 which begins Oct. 1”. Locally, the NPS would partner with the Manitou Islands Memorial Society, Manitou Island Transit, Electro-Optics Technology, Inc., and others to fund the lighting of the 104 foot lighthouse on South Manitou Island, which has been dark since 1958. “We would install a solar powered replica of the original Fresnel lens and restore the lantern room and stairway at a cost of about $81,000,” said Dusty Shultz, Lakeshore Superintendent. “The light would be seen by boaters in the Manitou Passage just as it was a hundred years ago, and would help connect future generations of park visitors to the Great Lakes Maritime history here,” said Shultz.
The NPS would also partner with the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to eradicate Baby’s Breath and provide education about invasive plants in and around the Lakeshore. “Although many people think of Baby’s Breath only as an addition to bouquets and flower arrangements,” said Shultz, “it is actually a highly invasive non-native plant with a huge tap root that can extend nearly 12 feet into the ground, robbing our native dune plants of water and nutrients.” “If left unchecked, the dense stands of Baby’s Breath could potentially stabilize the shifting sands of the entire dune system and completely alter the habitat,” said Shultz. The nearly $200,000 in project funds would be used to hire a crew of Technicians and Biologists to eradicate Baby’s Breath in the dune environment and provide educational workshops on invasive plant management.
The projects at Sleeping Bear Dunes are two of nearly $370 million of proposals eligible for centennial challenge matching funds. The Nature Conservancy, Manitou Islands Memorial Society, Manitou Island Transit, Electro-Optics Technology, Inc. and others have committed matching money for the Baby’s Breath and Lighthouse projects. The new fiscal year begins October 1 and the Lakeshore and its partners are very excited to get these Centennial projects underway.
Director Bomar said, “The centennial challenge is a critical element in the National Park Centennial Initiative put forward by President Bush and unveiled by Secretary Kempthorne one year ago. The full centennial initiative is a potential $3 billion investment in our national parks, two-thirds of it a public-private partnership of matching money.”
The President’s fiscal year 2008 budget called for an additional $100 million a year for 10 years to be dedicated to bolster basic park operations, Bomar said. Congress has included the first $100 million for operations in the fiscal year 2008 budget that awaits final passage. Superintendent Shultz voiced her appreciation for the help that the operations funding would bring, “The funding identified for the National Lakeshore in the 2008 budget would go a long way to restore the capability we have lost over the past several years of flat budgets. We would be able to fund such things as the restoration of seasonal employee positions, and the establishment of a position to manage the 800 plus volunteers who donate their time to the park.”
“The second part of the initiative is the centennial challenge – a funding mechanism to match up to $100 million a year over 10 years of public money with $100 million a year for 10 years in private donations,” Bomar said. “Congress has yet to finish legislation necessary to create the public-private centennial challenge.”
Financial commitments to the first round of proposals exceeded the President’s challenge. “We have about $370 million in proposals with not $100 million in private commitments, but $216 million committed from park visitors, friends groups and other partners,” Bomar said.
“I’ve testified before Senate and House subcommittees and judging by the warm reception we received, I believe Congress will include centennial challenge money in our next budget. We look forward to working with members from both sides of the aisle to provide the key to the centennial challenge. When that happens we can make decisions on which of these wonderful proposals to begin in the fall.”
To be certified, proposals had to be imaginative and innovative, address critical Service needs, have a philanthropic partner, require little or no additional recurring operating funds to be sustainable, improve the efficiency of park management, operations and employees, and produce measurable results.
“Last week, I sent an email to the men and women of the National Park Service to inform them of our announcement. One of the replies I received says it best: ‘This is thrilling! A win/win opportunity like we've never seen before. Thanks for the energy and vision for the NPS.’”
“That thanks,” Bomar said, “is for the many who worked to transform vision into action: Secretary Kempthorne and our friends in Congress, from both sides of the aisle who introduced legislation to support the Centennial. But most of all, our thanks go to park superintendents, friends groups, partners and an army of supporters.”
“When history is written,” Bomar said, “the Centennial Initiative will be second only to the creation of the national park system itself.”
The full list of centennial challenge-eligible projects and programs is available on-line at the National Park Service centennial web site www.nps.gov/2016