2018-07-19 / Life in Leelanau

Challenges ahead, says park head


NEW SUPERINTENDENT Scott Tucker poses for a picture after his discussion with the Empire village council on Thursday night. NEW SUPERINTENDENT Scott Tucker poses for a picture after his discussion with the Empire village council on Thursday night. Scott Tucker is looking forward to a golden anniversary. And no, it’s certainly not his.

Tucker, superintendent at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and staff members are already making plans for the national park’s 50th birthday in 2020.

Tucker spoke to residents last Thursday for a half-hour session held prior to the Empire Village Council meeting. About 35 people were in attendance.

Tucker talked about a multitude of upcoming projects while mentioning that plans are being discussed for the Lakeshore’s big birthday party.

Then and now, though, the emphasis for park staff revolves around creating a positive experience for park patrons.

“My vision is for the staff Sleeping Bear and the community to manage to that ‘postcard moment’,” he said. “A visitor could care less what happens on a different beach or different place. If they had a bad experience at Empire, they had a bad experience in Glen Arbor if at Sleeping Bear.”

Tucker wants the visitors to walk away with the thought of “that place is really special to this community, and to everyone who visits it.”

He has challenged his staff over the summer to address several subjects, including:

• The atmosphere around the Platte River.

“Ever since I got here, I have heard that it’s not a family friendly environment,” he said. “We want to change that for everyone.”

• Transitioning through the loss of institutional knowledge.

“We have seven retirements pending this year,” he said. “We will lose great staff members who know a lot about the park. We have to be able to get that information and help from them before they leave.”

• Using historic buildings in the Lakeshore to tell stories about the past.

• And to be more objective in reaching conclusions and creating policy.

“When we get complaints, we don’t have any statistics to back up why that might be a problem,” Tucker said. “We want to get more information on the park anyway we can, and the best way we can do it is by gathering scientific information about the campgrounds and parks.”

The challenges, he added, will need to be met with existing funds.

“The budget for Sleeping Bear is the same it was back in 2012,” he told the audience.

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