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Great Lakes Article:

Work on Sleeping Bear halted

Lawmakers make announcement
By BILL O'BRIEN
Traverse City Record-Eagle
10/14/2002

      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 proposals.
      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 the revisions.
      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 from here.
      "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 parks.
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