Muskegon County opens the southern 214 acres of Dune Harbor County Park
One year ago, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund awarded Muskegon County a $5 million grant to acquire the southern 214 acres of the former Nugent Sand mine to transform into Dune Harbor County Park. The acquisition was made possible with a generous donation of land value from the previous landowner, Robert Chandonnet, and his daughters Suzette Colon and Deanna Chandonnet.
This spring, this part of the park opened to the public.
Muskegon County closed on its purchase of the southern portion of the Nugent Sand property in December 2021. The MNRTF grant requires the County to open the land to the public within 90 days after closing. There was a soft opening of the property in March.
“We are excited to finally be able to welcome the public to this beautiful and centrally located natural space,” said Bob Lukens, director of the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Last year, the Land Conservancy of West Michigan led a campaign to raise funds for the costs of opening the park to the public, as well as to provide match funding for future grants. Supporters donated more than half a million dollars to make the park a reality.
“The community expressed its resounding support for the transformation of this property into Dune Harbor County Park,” said LCWM Executive Director Kim Karn. “We are so grateful to those who donated to the campaign, and we cannot wait to explore the park they worked together to create.”
Since acquiring the property, the County has established a parking lot, restrooms, signage, and trails. The park is conveniently located within easy reach of Norton Shores, Muskegon, and Muskegon Heights. Visitors can access the park via Winnetaska Road.
Visitors to the newly opened park can follow trails through sandy, rolling terrain along the edges of a large inland lake. Beach grass and milkweed cover the open areas, and in summer and early fall, monarch butterflies abound. The trails also meander through shady, forested areas populated with ferns, sassafras, red oak, red maple, and beech.
Park-goers may catch glimpses of wildlife such as white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, and rabbits. Lake Michigan’s strong coastal winds make the area an attractive spot for migratory songbirds and waterfowl, and bald eagles are often spotted within the property.
“We think community members will enjoy visiting this park in every season, watching the plants change and grow and seeing which birds and wildlife find refuge here at different times of year,” Karn said.
An official celebration of the opening of the southern portion is scheduled for later this spring. The dedication will be held on Thursday, May 19, 2022. More details will be available on our website at naturenearby.org/events.
In May, the Michigan Legislature will decide on the MNRTF’s recommendation for a second $5 million grant to fund the County’s acquisition of the remaining 162 acres of the Nugent Sand property. This portion of the land includes another inland lake and access to a beautiful Lake Michigan beach.
“There is more news to come on Dune Harbor County Park,” said Lukens. “We are eager to see this park’s bright future come to fruition.”