2012-04-19 / Front Page

Move trail route, neighbors say

By Patti Brandt


ARCHEOLOGIST DANIEL LAUTERBUR with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources marks the route of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail with red ribbons off of Co. Rd. 675 in Glen Arbor Township. Lauterbur was observing the trail route Friday for items of historical significance. ARCHEOLOGIST DANIEL LAUTERBUR with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources marks the route of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail with red ribbons off of Co. Rd. 675 in Glen Arbor Township. Lauterbur was observing the trail route Friday for items of historical significance. Residents don’t want Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail along their road.

A group of property owners living along Traverse Lake Road in Cleveland Township want the nearly three-mile stretch declared a Natural Beauty Road (NBR), a designation they hope will prevent a paved $1.8 million walking trail from being constructed for the area.

Another group that includes the

National Park

Service — which owns about half of the property adjoining Traverse Lake Road as part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — says a NBR distinction will increase traffic to the area, as well as make it difficult to make improvements to the road and the road shoulders.


AS PART OF preparations for the Leelanau Heritage Trail, small archeological digs are conducted every 25 feet or so along the proposed route. Above, one shallow dig is flagged off Co. Rd. 675 in Glen Arbor Township. AS PART OF preparations for the Leelanau Heritage Trail, small archeological digs are conducted every 25 feet or so along the proposed route. Above, one shallow dig is flagged off Co. Rd. 675 in Glen Arbor Township. Several people from both groups had their say at a Leelanau County Road Commission public hearing held Tuesday at the Cleveland Township Hall, where it was nearly standing room only. Commissioners spent about an hour listening to comments from the audience and reading several letters received from concerned residents, and another hour fielding questions.

“That’s what we fell in love with first, was the road, and we were lucky enough to find a house on the road,” said Gwenne Allgaier, who, with her husband, owns a home on Traverse Lake Road.

Allgaier said the NBR designation will keep the woods on the northern side of the road intact, as well as protect wildflowers growing along the shoulder of the road.

“We’re interested in keeping the road as is and having some control over what could happen there,” said Len Swanson, a real estate agent who has lived on Traverse Lake Road for many years.

Area resident Wayne Workman feels differently.

“It’s inaccurate to think that designating a Natural Beauty Road is going to stop what’s inevitable as far as the Heritage bike trail,” Workman said. “It feels like we may be taking a step backward and only complicating things.”

Traverse Lake Road, which measures 2.7 miles long, loops around Little Traverse Lake, beginning and ending on M-22. One side of the road borders the lake and has about 100 privatelyowned land parcels and homes. The other side of the road is defined by the densely wooded Lakeshore, where stately pines and birches grow on sandy hills.

At the center of the brouhaha is the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, part of which may run along Traverse Lake Road on the national park side. And that’s the problem, homeowners say. The trail will cut a wide swath right through the woods, with trees ripped out to make room.

“If we want that road to stay beautiful you cannot put that path down the side of that road,” said Neal Neese, who has owned property there since 1965.

“It will not be beautiful anymore.”

So far there is no firm plan in place for the Heritage Trail to run adjacent to Traverse Lake Road. For that to happen the Heritage Trail Committee — the citizens group that is behind the creation of the trail — needs approval from the Leelanau County Road Commission, which has jurisdiction over a 66-foot-wide easement that includes the road, road shoulders and adjacent land on both sides of the pavement.

To avoid having to get that approval, the trail could be moved outside of that 66-foot right-of-way, said engineer Jim Johnson, who works for the road commission. The road itself is about 24 feet wide.

The Heritage Trail is already under construction on the west end of Little Glen Lake, from where it heads north to Glen Haven and then east to the edge of Glen Arbor. A small portion of the trail – about 800 feet – runs along D.H. Day Main, a county road. The Road Commission approved the project there about two years ago.

Johnson said the Heritage Trail is a grass roots, citizens effort that has been ongoing for several years. The group has already received approval from the National Park Service for the portion of the trail that runs through the Lakeshore. An environmental assessment of the area has also been done, he said, though the trail has not yet been designed, which would be done — along with construction — by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

But Lee A. Bowen, county Road Commission chair, said that designating Traverse Lake Road a NBR would not necessarily keep the pedestrian and bike trial out of the right-of-way. The Natural Resources and Environment Protection Act, which gives guidelines for preserving native vegetation along a Natural Beauty Road, does not specifically prevent or allow for the construction of trails, Bowen said.

What the designation would do is make it more difficult, he said. Public hearings would have to be held before any changes to the area could be made.

There are several roads in Leelanau County that already have the NBR designation, including North Shore Drive north of Northport, Putnam and Gills Pier roads in Leelanau Township, Lawrence Road in Bingham Township, Voice Road in Empire and Roubal Road in Suttons Bay Township.

Dusty Shultz, a superintendent for the National Park Service, said in a letter written to the road commission and read at Tuesday’s public hearing that Traverse Lake Road, “…while a perfectly pleasant road, does not meet the goal of the NBR program, nor does it meet the specific criteria established in the NBR program.” The road is too developed and does not have unusual or outstanding beauty, Shultz wrote.

Shultz also said residents would see an increase in traffic on the road, though there have been no studies to determine whether other roads have seen an increase in traffic since their designation as NBRs.

Traverse Lake Road homeowner David Skjaerlund disagrees that the road is not unusually beautiful.

“There are no words that can describe the uniqueness of that road,” Skjaerlund said. “This is a chance for the road commission to be proactive and maintain the beauty of the road and of the county in general.”

Skjaerlund added that the area is listed on Michigan’s critical dune list, which means a permit would need to be issued before dirt could be moved or vegetation damaged.

Commissioners will vote on whether to give Traverse Lake Road a Natural Beauty Road designation at their regular May 15 meeting. Bowen declined to comment on which way he was leaning — or on the Heritage Trail itself.

“That’s why we have the public hearing, to hear from the people and weigh the pros and cons,” Bowen said.

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