BY MATT TROUTMAN
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Local businesses and an environmental group are calling on Congress to fund additional protections for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Virginia Shannon, state associate with Environment Michigan, unveiled a “top 10” list of reasons why the dunes need protection from pollution. The list highlights the 35 miles of shoreline, the 450-foot dunes and 71,000 protected acres, but also touches on the economic impact of its more than one million annual visitors.
“Most people see conservation funding as a closed box, but we’re really talking about the impact of the whole area,” Shannon said.
Dusty Shultz, superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, was not involved with a Thursday press conference called by Environment Michigan, but said additional federal funds would help restore funding to acquire properties within the park’s boundaries.
“It basically provides us more areas for visitor experiences,” she said.
Sleeping Bear Dunes faces a 5 percent funding cut from the federal sequestration and has announced staff and services reductions.
Shultz said the reductions will not affect the season between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the park receives 80 percent of its visitors.
However, it does mean Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive will be open for a shorter time of year, fewer ranger tours and reductions in exotic plant removal.
Rob Serbin, president of the Glen Lake Chamber of Commerce, said there’s concern the reductions could affect its member businesses.
“The more that’s available (at the dunes) the better it is for everybody,” he said.