I was extremely saddened to learn that the idea of a so-called land swap between the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Homestead resort has been revived. Im not sure I will be able to convey the particular feeling I and other members of my family have regarding this issue, but fatigue and deep concern and dismay come close.
Both the Homestead itself and the swap parcels in question formerly belonged to my grandparents, Arthur S. and Helen M. Huey of Suttons Bay. (My father, Richard K. Huey, also briefly owned the resort together with a partner, Jim Stevens, whose interest was eventually bought out by Robert A. Kuras; around that time the property to its north and east on Thoreson Rd. was purchased by the national government.) As I have written elsewhere, the Thoreson Rd. property was acquired for the park through an exercising of the governments right of eminent domain (or the threat of such action). My grandparents would not have otherwise chosen to sell this property.
The argument of the government at that time was that the land in question was indispensable to the establishment of the National Lakeshore. Now, repeatedly, we are reminded that this supposedly forever solution is perhaps not so lasting as we were once assured it was.
Over the past few decades my family and I have reconciled ourselves to our loss. We have come to see the establishment of the National Lakeshore as something very positive for Leelanau County. Moreover, we believe that the beautiful piece of land in question should, indeed, be part of the park. If, however, it is to be returned to private ownership, we cannot understand why it is first offered in trade to a third-party developer and not offered for resale to those who were forced to part with it, ostensibly so that it might be preserved for future generations.
Such an action would seriously damage the image not only of this National Lakeshore, but of National Parks throughout the country. Others have recognized this as well. In a letter to Michigans Lieutenant Governor Connie Binsfeld, Roger Kennedy, Director of the National Park Service claimed (as quoted in The Leelanau Enterprise on Thursday, May 2, 1996) that with the exchange an appearance would be given the public that the NPS can use its powers to acquire land from one private owner ostensibly for a public purpose and allow it to be converted to a commercial use for another private party under the guise of an exchange. This precedent would provide condemnation defendant-land owners in the future in any park area with the defense that the park may not be taking the land for a public purpose, a defense that could cause the action to be dismissed and seriously impair the overall ability of the government to acquire lands for park purposes.
In an ideal world, the riverfront property (which, to further complicate things for me personally, formerly belonged to my great-aunt Cora Mautz Beals) would also be included in the park but not at the expense of removing other equally deserving property, and in particular property that was not sold voluntarily. We truly long for the day when this discussion will be permanently put to rest and we and other former property owners of land now in the park can marvel at the beauty of the land without the pangs of regret that accompany all these discussions of trading park property as though it were nothing more than some asset the park had acquired by chance.
In closing, let me say that the advent of the park changed my grandparents lives and it changed mine. I am not anxious to learn that all this upheaval has taken place in vain.
Michael Huey Vienna, Austria
(The above is an edited version of a letter to Dusty Shultz, Superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. -- ed.)
The straight story
Applause to George Foster for his interview with Paul Larudee (August 22-28). Larudee‘s stories of his role in the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine provided a far more honest and compelling read on the Middle East than the incoherence of Harley Sachs a few weeks ago.
Gina Aranki (on behalf of my family in the West Bank) via email
Stop the swap
Each August for the past three years I have participated in the Summer Institute of Western Michigan University‘s Holistic Health Program. It is a gift I give myself, experiencing the wondrous, renewing ways in which the interplay of mind, body, and spirit shape mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Holistic health is not about learning *what to do.* It is about learning *how to be* -- centered, living purposefully, respecting self, others, and the natural world.
The Institute is held at the Leelanau School, gently nestled beside Lake Michigan‘s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The exquisitely beautiful Crystal River sings and sparkles its way between the campus and the lakeshore. Great cedars and hemlocks hang out over the water, clinging tenaciously to the river banks, providing cool shadows in which tiny fish seek shelter. Sunlight reflecting off the crystal-clear water dances on tree trunks in a mesmerizing light show. Colored stones polished by time lie on the riverbed to form a mosaic of breathtaking beauty. Children drift along on inner tubes. Canoeists are one with the river.
I am drawn to this river, a source of inspiration like none I have ever seen. Camera in hand, I went river-walking at the close of the Institute August 10. I needed the Crystal River to nourish my soul one last time, inviting its beauty to embrace me like the parting hugs from classmates. I walked slowly in the shallow water, captivated by the river‘s song, interplay of light and shadow, and incredible clarity.
A couple of bends in the river beyond the Leelanau School, the Crystal River flows beside The Homestead, which markets itself as “Americas Freshwater Resort.“ I wanted to see this place from the river‘s perspective, having seen only the opulent Homestead sales offices for its pricey condominiums.
As I rounded the last bend in the river the cool, tree-lined banks of the singing river were replaced to my right by condominiums with chem-lawns extending to the waters edge and non-native plants beyond that stealthily suffocating the river. Chemical-treated board walls imprisoned the river which had lost its music and become a hazy channel. If the river had a song left to sing, its voice would have been drowned out by boom boxes on balconies. Gone were the native grasses and rich scent of cedars. In their place were boardwalks and sidewalks, pavement and people, earth-raping landscaping, and the jarring roar of jet skis just beyond a bridge to the beach and Café Manitou.
The Homestead should never have happened in the first place, the result of questionable political deal-making when hundreds of acres of the peninsula were taken by eminent domain to create the National Lakeshore. For many years Homestead developers battled the Friends of the Crystal River as developers sought to reroute and reconfigure the Crystal River to make it part of an exclusive golf course. Now the Homestead is brazenly attempting to “swap“ 106 acres it owns for 168 acres of undeveloped land inside the National Lakeshore. The resort intends to build some 80 more condominiums for the benefit of the wealthy few. This outrage heaps insult on those whose farms and land were seized allegedly for the good of all.
The Crystal River and the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore are treasures of incalculable worth where peace of mind, rejuvenation of body, and renewal of spirit can be found in abundance. Friends of the Crystal River hope to purchase the 106 acres to make them part of the Lakeshore and thus available to all of us. Conservationist John Sawhill said, “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.“ We must protect this precious land and water and other vestiges of our nation‘s restorative places as if our lives depend upon it because the truth is, they do.
Jan Corey Arnett Battle Creek