Visitors begin a climb at Sleeping Bear National Dunes Lakeshore. Photo via wikimedia.org
The first Freshwater Dune Summit is taking place along West Michigan’s lakeshore.
The Michigan Environmental Council, or MEC, Heart of the Lakes, and West Michigan Environmental Action Council, or WMEAC, are hosting the two-day event on May 7-8 in Muskegon at the Holiday Inn in Muskegon Harbor.
Registration is $35. Special room rates are available at the hotel.
Outdoor adventurers, sand dune advocates, academic researchers and tourism professionals are all invited to attend.
Speakers will talk about the importance of Michigan’s coastal sand dunes.
Attendees will also have opportunities to explore the Lake Michigan shoreline and enjoy the local food and beer scene.
The summit begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday with the choice of a bike ride, trail run or kayak float on the Muskegon River, followed by dinner at Rebel Pies and a screening of outdoor films at Unruly Brewing.
The program for Monday offers a field trip and dune hike or sharing and discussion sessions on a range of topics: the economic and community benefits of outdoor recreation; stories from the region's three dunes national lakeshores; evolution of dune management science; and dune and beach stewardship efforts.
The summit will also include the unveiling of a new social and economic value survey for the dunes developed by Michigan State University researchers.
Additionally, Heart of the Lakes, which serves as the “collective voice” for Michigan's land conservancies, will present its annual Conservation Heroes awards.
Brad Garmon, director of conservation and emerging issues for MEC, said Michigan’s coastal sand dunes area a “world-class asset.”
“We want this summit to begin a discussion Michigan needs to have about the value of these special places and how best to protect and enjoy them,” Garmon said.
Jonathan Jarosz, executive director of Heart of the Lakes, said the summit will offer “real and measurable data on how important these dunes are, how and where people recreate in the dunes and the economic and quality-of-life benefits to the communities where they are located.”
“We think that's critical — and missing — information that should drive management decisions and investments going forward,” he said.