POINT BETSIE

Cindy Bright of Galion, Ohio, looks for rocks while visiting Point Betsie with her husband Troy.

BEULAH — The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse will hire Fleis & VandenBrink to do engineering work on a project that makes it easier for people to get to the beach and to the historic structures located at the site.

The project includes a boardwalk, sidewalks and beach access Mobi-mats for those who use wheelchairs. Also included is reconstruction of the Betsie Road end with the creation of a turnaround. This year about a half-mile of Betsie Road is getting shoulder work and being repaved, a project that is being done by Benzie County.

The lighthouse site is located on Lake Michigan at the southern entrance to the Manitou Passage. It includes a restored lighthouse keeper’s residence, the Boathouse Museum and a Fog Signal Building.

Fleis & VandenBrink submitted a bid of $74,000. Half of that will come from a Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grant the Friends received from the Office of the Great Lakes, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Friends group is required to make a 100 percent match, said Chuck Clarke, treasurer of the Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse board.

Four bids were received for the engineering work and two firms were interviewed — Beckett & Raeder and Fleis & VandenBrink, both of Traverse City.

They were looking for companies that had experience working with critical dune areas and had a relationship with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which does all the permitting for shoreline projects, Clarke said.

Beckett & Raeder has done previous work for the Friends group, but Fleis & VandenBrink submitted the low bid.

"We saw this as a fresh approach, as we were looking at new ideas," Clarke said.

The company was thoroughly vetted by the Friends, he said.

"We're very confident we did our homework very well," Clarke said.

The engineering work will be done by Oct. 1, according to the Fleis & VandenBrink bid, which was unanimously approved by the Benzie County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Commissioner Art Jeannot questioned why the grant needed the commission's approval. Clarke said the county is the pass-through agent for the grant. The county also will have to approve all contracts associated with the project.

The Friends were awarded a $99,335 CZM grant in October, but a plan submitted for the project was not approved by the Office of the Great Lakes, which asked that the project be split into two phases — planning and construction, Clarke said.

The project was revised and a new grant agreement was approved in March.

A 32-foot-long boardwalk with a 19-foot-wide deck area also had to be redesigned, as it extended past the dune. The DEQ will not permit any permanent structures west of the dune, Clarke said.

An 8-foot-wide boardwalk at a length of 25-30 feet is now planned, though it could change again, he said.

The construction phase of the project is expected to cost between $400,000 and $600,000, Clarke said. Fleis & VandenBrink will give the Friends a closer cost estimate as part of its work, he said.

A capital campaign is underway and has the goal of raising $1 million. The group now has about $350,000, though much of that was already in the coffers when the campaign started, Clarke said. The group also will apply for some grants, he said.

Clarke is hoping the project will start next spring, but it depends on how much money can be raised by then.

The Point Betsie Lighthouse was established in 1858. The site was honored in 2010 with the Governor's Award for Historic Preservation.

The lighthouse is currently getting a new coat of paint.