$14 million in grants approved for
two Lake Michigan dune areas
Detroit Free Press
Published December 9th, 2004
SAUGATUCK, Mich. (AP) -- A state board has committed more
than $14 million in grants to help buy and preserve two
large tracts -- 161 acres in Saugatuck and 500 acres near
Ferrysburg -- of environmentally sensitive Lake Michigan
The Ferrysburg-area tract includes no beach but the Saugatuck
property features about three-quarters of a mile of lake
frontage. Both lands have been under threat of development
in recent years.
"These are two key regional park projects that have
statewide significance," said an exuberant Julie
Stoneman, director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.
The money will come from the Michigan Natural Resources
Trust Fund, which each year funnels more than $30 million
in oil and gas royalties to buy and develop parks.
On Wednesday, the fund's five-member board offered $3.6
million to help Saugatuck buy long-sought land next to
the Kalamazoo River. The board agreed to a three-year
grant that gives the same amount in 2005 and 2006 for
a total of $10.7 million, in a purchase to cost about
The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department received
$3.9 million to buy 500 acres between North Beach County
Park in Ferrysburg and Hoffmaster State Park near Norton
"We could not have hoped for any better result than
this," department Director John Scholtz told The
Grand Rapids Press.
For more than a decade, Saugatuck-area leaders have been
trying to preserve 412 acres once owned by Frank and Gertrude
Denison, then controlled by their separate estates. Together,
their lands north and south of the river in northwestern
Allegan County has been valued at more than $30 million.
The grant money is for the southern tract.
Negotiations for a sale stalled over complications with
the estates and their beneficiaries, but the head of an
Oklahoma City energy company may have cleared some red
tape when he reached a deal in October to buy a 50 percent
interest in the land.
Those leading the preservation effort say Aubrey McClendon,
chairman and chief executive officer of Chesapeake Energy
Corp., has voiced an interest in conservation and should
be easier to negotiate with than several trustees and
Meanwhile, Scholtz said he expects to close the deal
on the 500 acres in northwestern Ottawa County during
the next few months. Owner Northern Trails Development
already has agreed to sell the land for about $7 million.
Local benefactors have donated $1.3 million to the project.
"I think the fact there was such strong community
support for the project really moved it up in the minds
of the trust fund board members," Tim Scarpino, a
member of the Committee to Acquire North Ottawa Dunes,
told the Grand Haven Tribune. "To see that amount
of support in such a short time I think really made a