2016-10-27 / Outdoors

New plan for Cove beach less intrusive

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


EMILY AND ALEX Schelhaas, of Grand Rapids, take their Corgi Stella for a walk at Christmas Cove beach, which continues to take a beating from high water levels and high winds. EMILY AND ALEX Schelhaas, of Grand Rapids, take their Corgi Stella for a walk at Christmas Cove beach, which continues to take a beating from high water levels and high winds. A plan to move the parking lot at Christmas Cove Beach will be presented to the Leelanau Township Board at its regular meeting set for Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The plan was created by Kalamazoobased landscape architects O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock & Associates, which was hired earlier this year to come up with a less intrusive project to save an eroding dune bluff located under the parking lot.

The dune has eroded due to high water levels in Lake Michigan and high winds coming off the lake. Township officials have been afraid that the parking lot would begin to crumble and fall apart if wind continued to sculpt and erode the bluff.

“The dune has retreated,” said Leelanau Township Supervisor Doug Scripps. “That has gotten smaller compared to what it was last year at this time. And that’s the thing to watch.”

The plan includes moving the parking lot back about 15 feet and into a hill located there. The dune would then be sloped down to the beach and dune grass planted. A fence would be placed at the top and the bottom of the dune to make sure the dune grass takes hold and isn’t killed by people walking down the slope.

A temporary fence was put up along the edge of the parking lot about a year and a half ago, as well as signs warning people of the danger presented by the sharp bluff.

A set of stairs located further down the beach was also added, as people using the beach have always just walked down the dune.

The plan that will be presented also includes building a universal access walkway to the beach and moving an outhouse to the south end of the beach.

The company was paid $6,000 to create the plan. Scripps has not yet presented what the cost would be to implement it.

The scope of the project is in stark contrast to one presented in June of 2015 that included erecting a 280-foot steel seawall at the beach.

Several township residents came out to protest that plan, with 168 of them signing a petition to stop the seawall.

That plan, designed by the Traverse City-based Schiffer Group, called for driving steel sheet pilings about 15 to 20 feet into the ground that would have been covered in sand and anchored with boulders.

In the shore stabilization program, a name given the project by engineer James Schiffer, the sheet pilings would not be exposed or seen.

But those protesting the plan had found research indicating that waves from Lake Michigan would scour sand at the base of the wall, creating a basin that would fill with water.

Eventually, they said, there would be no sand between the wall and the water and the beach would be gone.

Christmas cove beach was expanded to about 400 feet a couple of years ago when the township purchased a 3/4- acre lot for $570,000, using a $375,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to pay for the lion’s share.

The erosion is taking place on the original section of the beach.

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