Onekama still looking to improve Langland Park

The view of Lake Michigan from the parking lot at Capt. John Langland Park in Onekama is mostly diminished since the area was declared a critical dune after the passage of the Critical Dunes Act of 1989. (Justine McGuire/News Advocate)

The view of Lake Michigan from the parking lot at Capt. John Langland Park in Onekama is mostly diminished since the area was declared a critical dune after the passage of the Critical Dunes Act of 1989. (Justine McGuire/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — One of the biggest elements in the plan to improve Capt. John Langland Park in Onekama Township is to remove dunes that block the view of Lake Michigan.

However, the township hasn’t submitted an application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a permit to the remove the dunes because it was waiting on news of a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

The park is more widely known as “the turnaround,” and it’s located at the end of Portage Point Road on Lake Michigan.

In total, the grant would be for about $260,000, and the township would match it with $87,000. It would be used to add restrooms, changing rooms, a boardwalk on the beach, mobi mats, an overlook, educational signage and other handicap accessible elements to make it an Explore the Shores site.

Explore the Shores was created in 2008 with the aim of making Manistee County a premier destination for people of all ages, needs and abilities to access and enjoy water resources (exploretheshores.org). The program is organized through the Manistee Alliance for Economic Success (AES) and the Manistee County Community Foundation.

The dune removal permit application would cost the township about $2,000, but if the grant is awarded, the money could come from that instead of township coffers, said Dave Meister, township supervisor.

Meister said the $87,000 match is already set aside.

“I thought we could save the taxpayers some money, but I’m only going to wait until the end of this month,” he said. “We need to start this application process. We need to remove that sand.”

If the permit is granted, he said dunes might be removed in March or April.

“It’s in progress, and we’re absolutely doing it,” said Susan Schwing, chair of the Langland Park Restoration Committee. “I know we’ll be successful in getting it. It will be 30 days before we get results after we submit it.”

The committee is a citizen activist group that is not formally associated with Onekama Township. However, it is working to help the township find a way to restore the beach.

This is the second time the township will apply for a permit to remove the dunes to the west of the parking lot at the park. An application was denied in 2005.

When the Michigan Critical Dunes Act of 1989 was passed, the beach was designated as a critical dune area, which is why the sand has been allowed to accumulate to 4- to 6-feet tall dunes, and why DEQ approval is needed to level the area.

Of the 225,000 acres of dunes in Michigan, 74,000 acres are considered critical dunes, according the DEQ.

Dunes are deemed critical based on the material, vegetation, habitat, slope, fragility and ecological impact, said Susan Conradson, an environmental engineer with the DEQ Cadillac office. Designations were based on a study conducted after the 1989 law was passed.

Once the DEQ has an application in hand, it will do a site inspection to assess the quality, function and diversity of the dunes, among other things.

This is the third time the township has applied for the trust fund grant, and so far, it’s been unsuccessful.

Right now, Tim Ervin at AES, is working to resubmit the application by the end of the week to increase the chance of it being awarded.

“I hate to say this because it could come back to bite me, but I’m cautiously optimistic,” Ervin said.

In the new proposal, he plans to prove that the park will be part of the Blue Water Trail system after improvements are completed, which will give the project extra points.

The trail system allows kayakers and canoers to travel the Michigan shoreline and make stops at properly equipped beaches and campgrounds.

“The goal here is to convert it into a day-use park so that families can go there and have facilities to spend the whole day down there,” Ervin said. “If all the improvements happen, the use of Langland Park will skyrocket. People will spend more time, and hopefully more money in Onekama and Manistee County.”

Trust fund grants will be awarded in mid-December.

Ervin said the project will be a lot easier if the dunes can be leveled in conjunction with other improvements.

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Posted by Justine McGuire

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