2017-08-10 / Outdoors

Lakeshore nonprofit relies on volunteers


VOLUNTEERS TAKE time to maintain a garden in the Port Oneida Historic District. VOLUNTEERS TAKE time to maintain a garden in the Port Oneida Historic District. The National Park Service has its hands full maintaining 70,000 acres, which includes the Port Oneida Historic District. That’s where nonprofits such as Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear (PHSB), a partner in the Port Oneida Fair, come in.

“We have been helping out since 1998,” said Susan Pocklington, executive director of PHSB. “We chose usually five to six projects to work on after our meeting with the park in the fall. Together we look at the priorities for the next year and see what projects we will take on.”

Port Oneida Rural Historic District is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Made up of a set of historic farms, the district was farmed more than 150 years ago by some of Leelanau County’s first white settlers.

Farmhouses and fields were passed down by families before being purchased by the federal government in the 1970s and 80s.

Many are now used to showcase historic farming skills and a lifestyle that has long since passed.

Though projects vary each year, the group does everything from plaster repair on farm buildings to garden restoration to regular maintenance.

Currently, Preserve Sleeping Bear volunteers are removing invasive species from farmsteads and renovating the Port Oneida schoolhouse.

Over the past 19 years, Preserve Sleeping Bear has invested more than $500,000 into the park, including volunteer labor, Pocklington said. Money raised at the Port Oneida Fair is used to maintain historic farm sites.

“The cultural landscape is equally as important but so is the land,” Pocklington said. “When you start digging around, it is very likely that you will find something that you were not expecting or something else that needs to be done as well.”

Volunteers are essential to the organization, which relies on a core group of about 20 people

“We need a lot of traditional skills, which is very cool, especially for the area we’re working on,” she said. “Our volunteers are very hardworking. Some of them have been around for a while and some of them are new.”

But even using mostly volunteer labor, the work of PHSB can be expensive.

“Sometimes we have to contract people to come in and help with things like exterior painting because of the threat of lead paint,” Pocklington said. “It can cost anywhere from $8,000 to replace the exterior paint because of scraping and painting.”

She added, “If we had unlimited resources, we could do a lot more. Money is limiting sometimes. We have been fortunate to have the people we needed at the right time.”

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