Land Preservation Groups May Have Another Shot At Obtaining McClendon Property
It’s been done twice before with Saugatuck Dunes State Park and the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area (SHNA), and it could be done again.
“It” is the securing of more public open space along Lake Michigan and keeping the Saugatuck Dunes one contiguous piece of land with minimal impact to the natural environment, coastal preservation groups Monday night told a standing-room only crowd at Saugatuck High School’s media center.
For now the preservation groups are focused on 150 acres of the McClendon property—ultimately, they would like acquisition of all 315 acres of it—and they are busy gathering public momentum in support of the $500,000 grant application before the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).
That application was recently submitted to the MNRTF by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“This is not a grant to get the (150 acres of the) property. This is a grant to plan to acquire the property,” West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC)’s Rachel Wood told the attending public.
WMEAC has partnered with the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance (SDCA), both of which are also planning to work with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, in convincing state officials they have an “opportunity and responsibility to invest in expanding Saugatuck Dunes State Park,” according to a FAQ handout.
The organizations envision “some development appropriately placed” and say the acquisition will not only serve to protect water trails and eco-systems, but also enhance the local tourist-based economy.
“We need to get letters (of support) out,” Phil Miller, a community leader highly recognized for his behind-the-scenes work in acquisition of the SHNA, told fellow attendees.
Letters need to be submitted to Lansing by October 6 as the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board meets on October 23.
“This will not become a Holland State Park because of you, you present here,” Miller added, referring to preservationists’ desire to not build a parking lot on the shoreline if indeed the McClendon property is acquired.
But before any steps can be taken, “You need a willing buyer and you need a willing seller,” Dick Waskin, realtor/broker for the McClendon property with RE/MAX, reminded the crowd.
Waskin said he and partner Andrea Crossman-Ortman, with Coldwell Banker Woodland-Schmidt, encouraged owner Aubrey McClendon, Oklahoma City natural gas magnate, to take the property off of the market.
“We are going to re-evaluate where we are…the owner doesn’t know what direction he is going,” said Waskin.
He envisions a kind of public-and-private partnership if the process moves forward.
No formal plans have been articulated by the groups or which specific 150 acres of the property they would like to purchase.
“It’s (the grant application) a foot in the door, a start in the process,” said David Swan of the SDCA.
His organization has written suggested letters for the benefit of those who want to support the grant application.
Email to appropriate state officials are also being encouraged. Further information can be obtained by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org