With over one million visitors each year, it makes sound economic sense to protect and preserve what attracts visitors to the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal region in the first place.

Throughout the last hundred years, much of that attraction has been our unique natural heritage: the dynamic splendor of Lake Michigan, our beautiful beaches, the Saugatuck Dunes, the tranquil woods, and running through the middle of it all—creating stunning vistas of land and water from every angle—the Kalamazoo River flows through the Harbor and out into the Lake. To be here is to be a part of two worlds: one on land and one on water.

Many economic studies illustrate the long-term economic benefits of green space or open space. For example, property values tend to stabilize or even increase the closer that they are to adjacent open space. Preserved public open space offers the following benefits with little or no public investment in infrastructure (i.e. higher taxes): attracts tourists who spend money locally, attracts valuable new residents who buy primary or secondary homes here, offers recreational opportunities, provides increasingly scarce habitat for a wide range of plants and animals, improves air and water quality, and offers us all beauty, solace, and restoration.

While wise development does indeed enhance the tax base, the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance favors directing new development towards existing infrastructure. According to the recent study The Impact of Parks and Open Space on Property Values and the Property Tax Base by John L. Crompton, “[Findings] have consistently shown that the public costs associated with new residential development exceed the public revenues that accrue from it. . . . In contrast, natural parks and open space require few public services—no roads, no schools, no sewage, no solid waste disposal, no water, and minimal fire and police protection.” Currently, there are many already existing opportunities to create jobs by building new houses or re-modeling older homes that attract new residents to our area.

The recently preserved 171-acre Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area will prove to be just such an economic engine that protects our property values along with attracting tourists to one of the most beautiful stretches of Lake Michigan to be found anywhere in the Great Lakes region. These new and return visitors will spend their tourist dollars here at many of the following local businesses: downtown shops, restaurants, art galleries, hotels, motels, B&Bs, vacation rentals, real estate, land tours, water tours, marinas, events & festivals, charter fishing, and the performing arts. These tourists generate local income that helps to grow our local tax base.

There’s no doubt that our geography is our economy.