Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 25, 2012

Forum: Extend Heritage Trail 'Along Shore'

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail from the Dune Climb to Glen Arbor provides an opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's dunes and landscapes without exposure to roads, road traffic or residential neighborhoods.

This same standard of experience should be continued along other segments of the trail. A similar "Along the Shore" route was proposed to the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route Committee, providing trail users an exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of Lake Michigan (view presentation at www.AlongTheShore.info).

The Along the Shore route proposes a trail set back from the beach in the dune transition area paralleling Lake Michigan between CR 669 and CR 651, following historical roads and using existing gravel roads and roadbeds which served houses along the shore through 1999.

The topography is similar to the Dune Climb to Glen Haven segment: flat, stabilized transition dunes, no mature forests, no wetlands and low-cost construction methods. The Along the Shore route would also provide trail access to improved public facilities and parking at CR 669 and CR 651.

The Along the Shore route has the following advantages as compared to Traverse Lake Road options, namely: no extensive boardwalks across large wetland areas; no expansive bridging over Shalda Creek; no major forest clearing of mature trees; no destruction of 60-foot critical dunes protected by state law; no substandard user experience along a county road; an absence of safety concerns for users on the road; no impact on the road's scenic beauty; no crossing the front yard of private residences; and much less expensive construction costs.

The Along the Shore route follows the northern boundary of the proposed wilderness area just as Traverse Lake Road options follow the southern boundary, leaving the core area of the proposed wilderness area similarly intact. We believe it's possible to accommodate the Along the Shore route by moving the northern border of this area south only 200 feet or by defining a wilderness exclusion, as has already been done with the Cottonwood Trail. The proposed wilderness area was modified in the past to accommodate other proposed portions of the Heritage Trail.

Mansfield & Associates, Inc., as part of a professional review, set forth the environmental advantages of the Along the Shore route. They also identified various errors, inconsistencies and inadequacies in the Park's Environmental Assessment Report, raising legitimate questions about the Park's determination of no significant environmental impact. Currently, the chosen Trail route runs parallel to Traverse Lake Road and the park has received over 200 written petitions opposing the various Trail options along Traverse Lake Road.

We invite people to gain an understanding of the opportunities with the Along the Shore route by visiting the informational website: www.AlongTheShore.info.

The Heritage Trail users certainly deserve a world-class experience paralleling the lakeshore. We believe that we can work together to create a superior legacy.

About the author: Len Swanson lives on Traverse Lake Road; he is a local real estate broker and citizen coordinator of Little Traverse Lake Property Owners in Cedar.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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