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Trails Reopen

Beginning Friday, May 22, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will begin to increase recreational access to the park and reopen access to: 

  • Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail;
  • all park hiking trails and trailheads;
  • picnic areas;
  • parking areas;
  • boat launches;
  • Dune Climb; and
  • vault toilets.

Click the links to learn more about the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT) or visit our Trail Page to learn about all of the trails in the park or view our Hiking Trail Brochure.

The Friends have been hard at work this week in partnership with the park to get trails ready for visitors to return! 

Trail Etiquette:

  • Stay to the RIGHT, alert others when passing on their left.
  • Please give six-feet of social distance to other groups on the trail.
  • No gathering of groups larger than 10 persons or with those outside of your household.
  • DO NOT block the trail when stopped – move to the side.
  • Cyclists ride single file when other users are present.
  • Please wear a helmet for your safety.
  • Dispose of all trash and animal waste in trash receptacles.
  • Stay on the trail, respect plants and wildlife.
  • Respect Private Property – Stay on the Trail.

One of the many Friends programs creates booklets supplied to the Visitor Center for a donation. These booklets can also be downloaded from our site on our Booklets page. We encourage you to donate to our organization to continue to provide valuable maintenance and programs to the park this year. 


Earth Day and National Park Week

We celebrated National Park Week with a look back in history, past projects, and future plans to work with the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore to protect natural resources and heighten visitor experiences. 

This year is also the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The purpose of Earth Day is to support environmental protection and we can work together to protect our natural resources. Everyone can make an impact on preserving earth’s resources through individual volunteering keeping natural spaces clean using Leave No Trace principles

Be prepared, travel on safe and durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, and respect wildlife and each other. 

There are so many reasons to be conscious when visiting the National Lakeshore and to remember these principals while enjoying your time at the park. We help the park preserve natural and historic sights, advise safe visitation to help foster the natural habitat of an endangered bird, the Piping Plover, and create educational materials to share why this location is so special. 

One such project was the creation of Interpretive Sign Areas around park interest points and along the Pierce Stocking Drive. This project involved the collection of geologic and historic information about this popular point of interest never found in one spot before and inspired the idea to create a book. Our book, The Life of the Sleeping Bear is now a fundraiser for us to be able to further support park programs. 

You can also visit our site before you visit the park to understand what trails and beaches to explore next. 

We can always use helping hands around the lakeshore. Now, this year we are awaiting when we can get back to help the land we love, but you can sign up to volunteer at any time, just fill out our Volunteer Application


Digital Park Visiting

During these times of Stay at Home and social distancing, there are many ways to explore the park and learn more about your favorite sites or prepare to explore some new locations for the next time you visit! 

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail IMAP outlines the entire Heritage trail, key sites, and park facilities along the trail. You can explore the entire length of the trail by clicking any point on the map and a photo of that area will come up on the right side of the screen – walking along the trail, digital, in any season. 
A video tutorial about how to use the IMAP can be found on YouTube.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Virtual Visit Showcases all points of interest in the park; viewpoints, campsites, and historic locations with links to learn about the history and importance of protecting each site. 
Follow these links below to download Sleeping Bear Dunes mobile app for both Apple and Android.

National Park System Virtual Visits provides links to many more of the National Park system’s 400+ parks and monuments. 

 

 


Plovers Returning

Nature never closes, and migrations of animals and birds are one of the most remarkable things in Nature. Here on the sandy shores of the Great Lakes, we see a special little bird called the Piping Plover return every year to nest and raise their young.

Plovers were classified an endangered species in 1985 when only 12 couples were spotted in the Great Lakes region. The birds are very sensitive to humans and dogs in the area which they nest and abandon nests if they feel threatened. Through conservation and protection by park staff, volunteers, and biologists, the Plover population reached a high of 41 pairs, half of them nested on North Manitu Island.

This season will be different. This year, volunteers will not be able to be on the beaches to spot and protect plover nests until the Stay at Home Ordinance is lifted and we can safely work with park staff. 

We ask our community to take extra care when visiting the shoreline by doing the following in April: 
– If you bring your dog, they must remain on a leash and within a close distance to you. 
– Please stay away from rocky areas on the beach and bluffs as this is where the Plovers build shallow nests in the sand and line them with pebbles or broken shells.

Sharing the shorelines, protecting piping plovers at Sleeping Bear

 


Annual Report 2019

This Year We Are Celebrating 25 Years of Support

 

Download our 2019 Annual Report

In 2019, The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes provided over 13,500 volunteer hours to support a wide variety of projects at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The largest projects in 2019 were the inception of the Track Chair Program and the completion of the Kettles Trail.

The Kettles Trail is officially complete and was commemorated by a Grand Opening Ceremony in late October which was attended by over 150 people. Attendees had the opportunity to see the trail with a guided hike by volunteers who helped build the trail. Our Track Chair Program is the first of its kind in a national park. We helped 70 visitors experience the Bay View Trail who otherwise would not be able to access due to the sandy and uneven trail. 

This year, The Friends raised over $122, 500 for programs to maintain the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail all year long, facilitate the completion of the Kettles Trail, support school snowshoe hikes in the park, produce and update trail maps in the park, provide preventative search and rescue efforts, as well as purchase an additional Track Chair for the 2nd year of the program. 

In November, The Friends also released a book written and published by volunteers, The Life of the Sleeping Bear which blends art, history, and science to provide a colorful tour of this precious geological and environmental area. With every purchase of our book, all proceeds come directly back to The Friends to support continuing programs.  

 For those who want more details about all of the projects we supported in 2019, click here.

 

Please consider making a donation for one of these projects or our General Fund.

Accomplishments by the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes in 2019.

If you are not already a member, please consider joining.
All you have to do is make a donation or sign up as a volunteer!


What’s in the Plan for 2020?

Not only are we celebrating 25 years of service in partnership with the National Park, but the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore will also be celebrating its 50th year in existence in the year 2020. Keep an eye out for special events from us and the park all year long to commemorate the history and impact the National Park has made to protect the natural wonder of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. 

We will continue to be busy in 2020 with our ongoing volunteer programs, but there will also be several big projects that we will need your help with.

  • Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail – Annual Operations & Maintenance plus beginning work on an extension of the trail from Bohemian Road (CR669) to Good Harbor Trail (CR-651)
    creating 5 more miles of paved access.
  • Kettles Trail – We will continue work and maintenance on the new trail including adding an observation deck at the bog, benches, as well as additional interpretive and directional signage. 
  • Proposed Mountian Bike Trail – Assessment and planning for a proposed mountain bike trail will begin in the spring of 2020. 
  • Continued accessibility improvements to trails and beach access points. 
 


10 Signs Spring Has Sprung

1. Spring Peepers – Wetlands thaw and release choruses of spring peepers, soon joined by red-winged blackbirds trilling from budding bushes.
2. Ruffed Grouse sounds – Male ruffed grouse stand atop old logs and drum their wings to establish territory and attract a mate. Hear the sound: 

3. Pussy willows – produce their furry catkins, one of the first signs of spring in the bare forest.

4. Smell of Spring – Along a hiking path, the rich scent of warming soil and leaf cover on the forest floor, often next to lingering snow banks sheltered in pockets of northern exposure.

5. Fawns – white tailed deer babies or fawns are odorless when they are born so predators can’t detect where they are.  The mother will leave the fawn for a few days right after birth as not to rub any of her scent off on the fawn while it gains strength.

6. Sandhill cranes – return to forage in open fields or soar overheard on outstretched wings with their long legs trailing behind. Their distinct guttural calls carry a long way in the spring air. 

7. Ducks on the lake – Flotillas of migrating ducks bob along the shore in Lake Michigan. The Sleeping Bear Dunes shoreline is a major migratory route and favorite of bird watchers. 

8. Trillium – This beautiful flower blooms and covers the forest floor with a blanket of white before the trees leaf out above.

9. Loons return to favorite inland lake nesting spots soon after ice out.

10. Cyclists – Lingering sections of packed snow and ice from a season of skiing on the Heritage Trail finally soften and give way to cyclists.


Fourth-grader Uses Track Chair to Join Classmates on Snowshoe Hike

“When I heard one of the students could not attend the snowshoe field trip because he uses a wheelchair, it got me thinking,” described Friends Chairman Kerry Kelly. “Maybe he could use our new Track Chair and go on the snowshoe hike with his classmates?”

Fourth Graders from Cherry Hill Elementary in Traverse City snowshoe through deep snow.

For the past 4 years, the Friends has sponsored a winter school snowshoe hike experience for elementary school kids in Northern Michigan. This winter, despite the government shutdown, over 20 schools and about 1,100 students will participate in the Sleeping Bear Dunes Snowshoe Hike Program. The students learn about winter ecology and how to put on snowshoes and hike through a snow-covered forest. It’s great fun for the whole class!

That is, unless you need to use a wheelchair to get around, then this is one field trip when you may have to stay home and miss out on the learning and the fun.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case…

Last year, the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes purchased a Track Chair to make available to Park visitors with limited mobility, so they can get out on some of our more rugged hiking trails.

So could the new Track Chair be the solution?

“We wondered if the Track Chair would work in snow and if the young student (4th grade) would be able to control it,” explained Kerry Kelly. “We had never tried it in snow before and our reservation system hasn’t been launched yet.”

“After discussions with the teacher and parents, we decided we should give it a try. When the bus showed up, the teacher brought David over to our Track Chair. We got him in the driver’s seat and after just a few seconds of training, he was off down the trail with his classmates.”

“We took a class picture before the hike,” beamed Kelly, “And David wheeled right in the middle of the group with chants of “David! David! David!” from his classmates.”

David in the Track Chair with his teacher and class during the Snowshoe Event.

“David was able to be on his own, like all of the other kids, for the entire hour plus long snowshoe hike! When it was time to get back on the bus, we thought David might want to drive the Track Chair home!”

Accessibility and finding ways for everyone to be included in Park activities is one of missions of the Friends. We support the Park on several projects to make our beaches and trails more accessible for everyone. If you’d like to make a much-needed financial donation to help keep programs like this available in your National Lakeshore, please go here to learn more.

Learn more about the Track Chair program and our other Accessibility projects


Kids Raise Funds for National Lakeshore & Meet Park Superintendent

Last year, Steiner sisters Alyssa (10) and Kylie (7) raised over $600 for victims of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico. So when they showed interest in having another fundraiser this year, the only question was who would they support?

“The girls were so surprised with the amount of money they were able to collect last year and it was such a good experience for them, I was thrilled they wanted to do it again,” exclaimed their mother Shannon. “Their love of nature and enjoyment of the National Lakeshore’s beaches, trails, and museums drove them to want to do more to support their National Park, so they decided to raise money for the Sleeping Bear Dunes.”

Fundraising for Sleeping Bear Dunes at Horizon Books in December, 2018

The fundraiser was held on the sidewalk in front of Horizon Books on December 16, 2018. The Steiner sisters and five of their friends (Sophia and Gianna Nowak, Alexandra Maxon, Lola Russell, and Molly O’Hearn) made things to give donors, shared maps of the park and of the new Kettles Trail that is being built now. They raised $330.19!

Kylie and Alyssa present their donation to Scott Tucker, Park Superintendent

Today, Alyssa and Kylie and their family made the trip to Empire to present their donation to Scott Tucker, Superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Their donation will be used to design and install a new interpretive sign at the new Kettles Trail. Scott presented Allysa and Kylie with Superintendent’s coin and Kerry Kelly presented them with a Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes pin. They and their families were treated to a viewing of an early draft of the new Visitor Center video that is being created now.

Their family often walks the Lake Michigan beaches in the National Lakeshore picking up litter, so they also joined the Adopt-A-Beach volunteer program!

This kind of stewardship is really inspiring!


Government Shutdown Impacts Sleeping Bear Dunes

During the shutdown of the federal government due to the lapse of appropriations, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures.

The visitor center will be closed and there will be no NPS-provided visitor services at the National Lakeshore, including restrooms, trash collection, or facilities maintenance. Services at the Platte River Campground will be discontinued as well, including snow plowing, custodial, bathrooms, showers, electricity, check-in/check-out, and reservations. Trails will remain accessible to visitors, but trailhead parking lots will not be plowed and emergency and rescue services will be limited.

During the federal government shutdown, NPS social media and websites will not be monitored or updated and so may not reflect current conditions. All park programs will be canceled until operations resume, including the guided snowshoe hikes that had been scheduled during Christmas week and early January.

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes will continue to groom and maintain the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail through the shutdown. For information on the Heritage Trail, watch the Heritage Trail Winter Page on our web site.

For updates on the shutdown, please visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.


Kettles Trail Construction

The new Kettles Trail, located in the Bow Lakes region of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is under construction. This trail will be approximately 3.5 miles long with the first segment being universally accessible from the parking lot to an overlook. The trail then goes through a hilly meadow and into a forested glacial moraine with steep kettle moraine and some kettle bogs.

Trail-building is being done by hand, and the project is being led by National Park Service staff and supported by two youth corps (YouthWork and SEEDS) as well as by volunteers from Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Funding for this project is provided by Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and grants from the American Hiking Society and the Biederman Family Foundation.

As of September 1, 2018 the accessible segment of the trail is nearly complete, and the trail in the forest is approximately half done. Learn more.


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