“In the tranquil landscape and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal region has been blessed with some of the finest beaches anywhere in the world. Condé Nast Traveler, MTV, National Geographic Traveler, and The Chicago Tribune have all ranked Oval Beach as one the best around. With the addition of the adjacent 171-acre Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, visitors and residents alike can now enjoy beach-combing, swimming, walking, birding, surfing, building sand castles, watching sunsets, or simply being on an astounding 3,650 linear feet of completely undeveloped Lake Michigan beach!
The Saugatuck Dunes State Park and the Saugatuck Dunes Natural Area feature over two and a half miles of almost completely undeveloped sandy beach. Unique amongst the vast majority of public open space areas on Lake Michigan, the Saugatuck Dunes State Park offers a singular experience of solace and solitude without the rattle and hum of cars and parking lots near the beach. When it comes to the State Park, the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance heartily endorses the motto: “Keep it wild, keep it whole, make it grow.”
The most significant threat to the beaches in the Saugatuck Dunes coastal region today remains the specter of multiple mansions and a huge marina on the NorthShore property from the pier north to the border of the State Park.
Development along Lake Michigan in the middle of two natural areas would introduce light and noise pollution along with the potential for new roads fragmenting healthy habitat. In addition, development along the beach north of the pier would have a negative impact on the following migratory birds: threatened Common Terns, threatened Forster’s Terns, plovers, and sandpipers.
Thanks to a favorable ruling in the case of Glass v. Goeckel, the public’s right to walk on the beach has been restored. In July of 2005, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that “public-trust” uses of the property are protected under state law below the “high-water” mark, which the court defined as “the point on the bank or shore up to which the presence and action of the water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark either by erosion, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, or other easily recognized characteristic.”
In addition to Oval Beach, Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, and Saugatuck Dunes State Park, other beaches in the Saugatuck Dunes coastal region include West Side County Park, Pier Cove Beach, Douglas Beach, Laketown Township Beach, and the disputed Plummerville Beach.