There have been a few dreadful ideas posed for the Saugatuck Dunes. In 1978 the DNR proposed a 1500-car parking lot on the beach where the State Park is now located. In 2001 the City of Holland proposed a water treatment facility where Laketown Township now hosts weddings and other functions. In both cases, good governance functioned well by stopping the ill-conceived plans and working with the citizenry to create what was best for the local community.
There is another dreadful idea currently being proposed for the Saugatuck Dunes: a marina channel that requires an excavated 1,600' long 14' deep 200' wide trench through the buried ghost town of Singapore, within Michigan's designated critical-dune boundary, nearly surrounded by publicly funded natural areas that protect an array of globally-imperiled interdunal wetlands, at the narrowest most-congested point at the Kalamazoo River mouth. Much of the removed sand would be dumped on the beach where Piping Plover and Pitcher’s Thistle have been seen. The conservation community has been trying to acquire the river mouth for decades.
On Wednesday afternoon, September 20th, at 4 PM the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board of Appeals will decide whether to allow the marina channel.
Local zoning clearly reads: “Article Xll - Water Access and Dock Density Regulations, Section 40-910(h) In no event shall a canal or channel be excavated for the purpose of increasing the Water Frontage.”
“In no event” is a deadstop. “In no event” means never, under no circumstances, absolutely not. Full stop.
Several local business owners who run commercial charter boat tours have asked that the marina not be approved. They all have concerns with safety at the congested river mouth.
Patty Birkholz, former Director of the Great Lakes, has asked that the marina not be approved. She has concerns with how the proposed marina channel will impact the globally-imperiled interdunal wetlands located on the natural area that was named in her honor: the Patricia Birkholz Natural Area. Scientists who have studied these wetlands for decades have concerns with the proposed development.
Property owners in the river mouth neighborhood have asked that the marina not be approved. They are concerned with how it will change the essential character of the river mouth area. The primary use of the river mouth neighborhood is for parks, legally-binding conservation easements, and state-designated natural areas. This is written into the Tri-Community Master Plan and local zoning.
Let’s hope good governance prevails again to protect the Saugatuck Dunes from an ill-conceived plan.