Van Buren State Park in 2008 (left) and 2014 (right). Images: Alan Arbogast
By Helen Korneffel
Sand dune lovers will come to Lansing, Michigan, Thursday for a meeting of the minds.
Researchers and policymakers hope to raise awareness and understanding of the changing nature of these unique features of Michigan’s landscape.
“It’s going to be a party about dunes,” said Alan Arbogast, a Michigan State University researcher who has been studying sand dunes for more than 20 years. “If people love Michigan’s sand dunes and like to go there and hang out, this is going to be a great chance to celebrate that. It’s not every day there is this kind of a focus on Michigan’s coastline.”
Attendees will leave the Michigan Coastal Dunes Symposium 2019: Learning to Live in Dynamic Dunes knowing more about the importance of the dunes they know and love, he said.
“About 3 million Michiganders travel to Michigan’s coastal dunes per year to play, visit and experience all they have to offer,” said Arbogast, who chairs the university’s Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Science.
Arbogast will present the very first high-resolution map of Michigan’s sand dunes. It covers 230,000 acres, more than double the area previously mapped.
The dunes have a significant economic impact, experts say.
The 3,610 people surveyed took an average of 6.7 trips to Michigan’s dunes in the past year, according to a study that Robert Richardson, an MSU ecological economist, will present at the symposium. They spent about $133.15 per person.
Richardson’s #howyoudune survey found the most popular dunes are Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Silver Lake State Park, Ludington State Park, Warren Dunes State Park and Holland State Park. People listed their favorite dune-related activities as beach-going, scenic enjoyment, modern and rustic camping and hiking.
“More than 80 percent of responses to our online survey said access to coastal dunes in Michigan is extremely important to the quality of life for them and members of their household,” Richardson said.
The symposium is about Michigan’s coastal sand dunes because the research to be presented is funded by the state Coastal Zone Management Program, Richardson said.
Other presentations at the event include a panel with policymakers who will speak about dune management and a keynote speech by Brad Garmon, the newly appointed head of Michigan’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry.
Garmon will speak about two dune research projects he leads, one on valuing coastal dunes and another about using science to manage them.
Register for Michigan Coastal Dunes Symposium 2019: Learning to Live in Dynamic Dunes at https://www.environmentalcouncil.org/michigan_coastal_dunes_symposium_2019. Tickets are $35 per person.