HONOR - Work on a new management plan
for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore park is being
stopped because of staunch public opposition to the pending
A group of Republican lawmakers gathered
Saturday morning on the banks of the Platte River with almost
200 local residents to make the anticipated announcement,
which was confirmed Friday in a letter to Congressman Peter
Hoekstra (R-Holland) from the Department of Interior. Federal
interior officials had earlier indicated that withdrawal
of the 20-year lakeshore plan was possible because of the
ongoing public outcry over the various general management
plan proposals first put forward by the National Park Service
more than two years ago.
In the letter, interior officials said
"it has been determined that the best course of action at
this time to withdraw the plan and cease (plan) development
processes for an undetermined amount of time." Legislators
said they received hundreds of letters and thousands of
petition signatures voicing opposition to the revised plan,
included limiting public access to park property through
"wilderness" designations of various areas.
"(The Park Service was) inundated with
letters and phone calls (that) ... this just didn't make
any common sense for Michigan," said Lt. Gov. Dick Poshumus
who joined Hoekstra and Congressman Dave Camp (R-Midland)
in making the announcement.
Hoekstra showed the crowd a stack of
letters, petitions and e-mails his office had received in
opposition to the Park Service's plan alternatives, which
he said reflected the deep concerns that area residents
have for the lakeshore.
"Your livelihoods - your lives - are
intertwined with the policies that affect the national park,"
said Hoekstra, who agreed that the "wilderness" designation
that limits public access to park property is "incompatible"
for much of the park land in Leelanau and Benzie counties.
The announcement came as a surprise
to local park officials. Sleeping Bear Dunes superintendent
Dusty Shultz said Saturday that her staff was not advised
that the plan revisions were being scrapped by the Department
of Interior. She acknowledged that around 70 percent of
the public comments received so far were opposed to many
of the plan changes, although she said some "very thoughtful
comments" were offered and were still being worked into
Shultz wouldn't comment on whether
she felt interior department officials in Washington had
made the correct decision in halting work on the plan, and
she wasn't sure where the park planning process will go
"We'll just wait until we get some
direction from the Department of Interior," she said.
But the announcement was cheered by
residents attending Saturday's news conference. Several
urged federal and state lawmakers to block Park Service
attempts here and in other areas around the country to increase
the amount of wilderness lands, which critics say limits
public access and recreational opportunities at national
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