Dune Harbor Park: Phase 1

County: Muskegon 214 acres

Help create a park for Muskegon that’s close to everything, yet away from it all.

Muskegon County has the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add to Michigan’s inventory of beautiful public lands along the Lake Michigan lakeshore, and you can help.

With trails that wind through a breezy forest, two calm inland lakes, and a beautiful Lake Michigan beach, the Nugent Sand property showcases the best parts of Muskegon County’s unique natural character. For years, the landscape has been barred from public access and mined for its sand. Together, we can transform it into Dune Harbor Park: a natural refuge for locals and visitors alikeand another point of pride for the Muskegon County community.

Thanks to the generous landowner and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the County is already in the first phase of acquiring the Nugent Sand property—the southern 214 acres, which include forested dunes, trails, and one of the inland lakes. The second phase is also in motion: the County has applied for a second MNRTF grant to acquire the northern part of the property, with the decision to come in early December 2021. There is plenty more in store for this park, and you can help build its bright future!

The first phase of Dune Harbor Park is slated to open to the public later this year, but to do it, we need your support! Right now, we are raising funds to help Muskegon County open the first phase of the park to the public and sustain it for future generations. We have $215,000 left to raise. Please support this critical first step for Dune Harbor Park: Make a gift today!

About the Property

The 377-acre Nugent Sand property is one of the largest, most unique natural landscapes in the region. The site of a former sand mine, it features hilly forested dunes, two large manmade lakes, and a stretch of beautiful Lake Michigan beach. The County is already working with the community to envision what it could become as Dune Harbor Park. Imagine a park that prioritizes access, recreation and conservation.

Public Benefit & Access

Ensuring that everyone has access to Dune Harbor Park is a top priority for Muskegon County as it pursues this project. With the property’s central location and the support of local groups and foundations, the County is working to make sure Dune Harbor Park’s restorative natural experiences are within reach for all.

Because the Dune Harbor Park property is in a highly populated area, it is accessible to many on foot and by bicycle. Muskegon Area Transit will soon offer a micro transit service that will be available for public shared ride transportation to the park. 

Muskegon County has met with the Disability Network of West Michigan to discuss the proposed development plan to review its accessibility and the future of the property and will continue that discussion during the master plan process.

Recreation

The sprawling property, with its diverse collection of environments, stands to offer abundant recreation opportunities. An early concept plan imagines over four miles of trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, access to both inland lakes for paddle sports, beach access to Lake Michigan and inland lakes, fishing piers, picnic areas, scenic overlooks, and a future camping area. These details will be solidified during the master planning process for the park, which the community will have an opportunity to help shape.

The natural features offer several opportunities for wildlife viewing, specifically on the trails surrounding both inland lakes. Designated trails and outlooks will control access to the protected dune area, while still fostering public access. As part of a master plan, the dune habitat will be reviewed to plan for long term sustainability and protection.

Conservation Value

The Lake Michigan shoreline is home to a globally rare collection of ecosystems that support biodiverse communities of plants, insects, and wildlife. Muskegon County’s acquisition of the Nugent Sand property would ensure this vital landscape is protected forever. 

The property sits within the coastal zone boundary and includes 1,662 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline, critical dune land, and is home to many native plants and animals. 

The landscape encompasses acres of critical dune and forested dune areas. Although mined for many years, the ecosystem has been adapting. Open sand areas created by mining have been replanted with beach grass and native plants and vegetation have grown in key areas to foster sand accumulation, helping the dunes continue a natural life cycle. Marram grass, milkweed, horsemint, and juniper shrubs are found throughout the property. In the forested areas, white pine, red oak, red maple, beech, black cherry, and sassafras grow strong. 

A wide variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, and rabbits, inhabit the property. Lake Michigan’s strong coastal winds make the area an attractive spot for migratory songbirds and waterfowl along the Lake Michigan Flyway. Bald eagles are often spotted within the property. Monarch butterflies are prevalent in the area due to the abundant milkweed. Perch, bass, and bluegill populate the South Lake.

What Happens Next

Muskegon County’s acquisition of the southern portion of the property is in progress. Until Muskegon County completes its acquisition of this first phase, which we anticipate will happen in 2021, the property remains private and closed to public access. A second grant application to fund the County’s acquisition of the remaining acreage is now being considered by the MNRTF, with a decision on funding to come in early December. Once the County secures the entire property, they will begin a park master plan process that will give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the future development and uses of the park.

Right now, we need your help to support the opening the first phase of the park and the costs of maintaining it for future generations. 

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has already been working with the County and lead donors to raise funds to be used to open Dune Harbor Park to the public and sustain the park for future generations to enjoy. To date, private donors have committed approximately $380,000 to the project. Will you help us raise an additional $215,000 to open the southern portion of the park and ensure its future success?

Donate Today

Images courtesy Kristine Tyler and Land Conservancy of West Michigan

Support Dune Harbor Park

Together, we can create a new park in Muskegon for all to enjoy! Please donate today to help open the first phase of Dune Harbor Park and ensure its future success. Thank you!

Donate Today

Please Note

Until Muskegon County completes its acquisition of this first phase, which we anticipate will happen in 2021, the property remains private and closed to public access. Stay tuned for news about public access to this first phase later this year!

Nearby Natural Areas

Anderson Woods Nature Preserve

Anderson Woods Nature Preserve is a forested natural area near Muskegon, Whitehall, and Montague. A wheelchair and stroller accessible trail system leads visitors through a towering oak and white pine forest, interspersed with glades lush with blueberry and wintergreen.

Read More

Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve

Located in northern Muskegon County, Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve protects unspoiled dune habitat along the lakeshore. A boardwalk leading to an overlook provides panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding dunes.

Read More

Meinert County Park

There are no trails leading through this rugged dune property. Steep, forested ridges are interwoven with narrow valleys. Tucked in the dune hills are wetlands and a small pond.

Read More

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