Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear is the only partner of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore committed solely to preserving the over 300 historic structures and cultural landscapes within the Park. Our role is– to raise funds through membership, donations, grants, events, and corporate funding, and to coordinate and implement volunteer teams–for preservation and interpretive projects (walking Tour Guide, exhibits and programs) in the Park in addition to our new chapter of developing Adaptive-use plans for some structures. We’re a mostly-all-volunteer group, with one part-time Director who also volunteers hundreds of hours each year.
In 1970, Congress established Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to “preserve outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations, and ancient glacial phenomena in their natural setting”. Shortly thereafter, the Park began purchasing properties within its boundaries. Although a few of the historic structures that were acquired were identified for preservation, many were removed and numerous others left to molder and decay. A lack of funds to preserve them and the park’s primary purpose of preserving the natural features set the stage for the demise of the remaining structures and cultural landscapes. In 1998, the public was alerted to the park’s intent to demolish over 200 of the 366 historic structures currently identified in the Park. Citizens voiced opposition to the proposed demolition plan at public meetings and urgently pleaded with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to save as many historic structures as possible.
Immediately, a grassroots effort led by local residents founded Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear (Preserve) to advocate for, and assist the Park in saving these priceless historic resources that tell of Great Lakes history and grace the landscape. With the support of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, the Park recognized the historic significance of the structures and escalated efforts to protect them. Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear entered into a partnership agreement with the Park to help with this huge undertaking. The demolition was halted, and the Park increased its efforts to compete for federal funding for preservation activities. Initially, Preserve was initially assisted by the Michigan Land Use Institute,who served as fiduciary and provided valuable assistance until Preserve attained its own tax-exempt status in 1999. Preserve remains vigilant in advocating for historic preservation.
With a recognition of the need to preserve cultural resources by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the involvement of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear — progress on historic preservation in the Park has grown steadily. Under the new management team of Superintendent Dusty Shultz (2001) and Assistant Superintendent Tom Ulrich (2002), the Park further demonstrated its commitment to preservation by successfully competing for federal funding and completing several stabilization, rehabilitation and restoration projects each year. However, this is still not enough. The need for help is apparent as these links to the past continue to break down. Preserve is making a difference by providing volunteer labor and project funds from businesses, foundations, and citizens. An increase in donations to Preserve is essential however, to quicken the pace and scope of preservation work.
In Spring of 2004, Preserve completed rehabilitation of the historic Charles and Hattie Olsen house in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District. The organization relocated its office to the farmhouse under a Special Use permit issued by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Situated on a visible stretch of M-22 near the gateway to Port Oneida, the house serves as an interpretive center for cultural landscapes and a place for communicating Preserve’s goals and preservation needs to the public.
PRESERVE HISTORIC SLEEPING BEAR’S GOALS:
- Raise awareness of the value & endangerment of historic resources
- Raise funds through membership, donations, grants, and events
- Plan and implement work bees on buildings and landscapes
- Provide cultural interpretive experiences in the Park
- Seek partnerships for historic structures and landscapes
- Advocate for policies that support historic preservation in the Park
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established by an Act of Congress October 21, 1970. In addition to the primary purpose of preserving the natural resources, the legislation required that the Park “…shall prepare and implement a land and water use management plan, which shall include specific provisions for – protection of scenic, scientific, and historic features contributing to public enjoyment.”
Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear respects the privacy of its donors and does not disclose, sell, or exchange donor information to or with any person or any other entity unless required by law. We will, however, list donor names in our newsletters and other appropriate publications, unless otherwise noted as an anonymous gift.