Cherry Beach Project moving forward thanks to state grant

NOW: Cherry Beach Project moving forward thanks to state grant

CHIKAMING TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The years long Cherry Beach Project is moving forward after Chikaming Township received a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. 

The $2.475 million grant allows the township to buy a parcel of land next to the park which project organizers say saves it from development and adds public access to the beach. 

“This is a great Christmas present,” said Janet Schrader, Chikaming Township Park Board member. 

The acquisition will protect a little more than three acres of land that contains a forest and a dune. 

It also increases the park’s lakefront from 253 to 657 feet. Only two percent of Chikaming Township’s lakefront is currently public. The acquisition increases that to three percent. 

The township plans to create a low impact trail and offer educational workshops for visitors as well. 

An additional $1.65 million from community members and local organizations. 

“It was just overwhelmingly joyful to know that over 900 people pledged to help with this,” said Schrader. “The community rallied around to save a piece of critical dune [it] is just overwhelming and Chikaming Township is a fabulous place to live because of all the love.” 

The Cherry Beach Project started four years ago when a group of neighbors started fundraising so the township could buy the $4.1 million property and preserve it rather than have a house built on it. 

Schrader and other members of CBP say underdeveloped spaces like the one next to Cherry Beach are critical for the area’s future. 

“Lake Michigan is a flyway path for many birds migrating,” said Schrader. “They need places to stop and rest and you also want to leave the critical dunes the way they are. When you clear cut them, that’s when you have lake homes sliding faster into the lake. We have very little sand to sit in, so 400 extra feet will mean that we’re not sitting on top of each other.” 

“With climate change causing the lake level to rise because of all of the increased humidity in the air, we are going to be looking at a lot of erosion along the lakefront,” said Sarah Doty, project supporter. “These properties that are able to hold some of the water in and create natural areas where the dune is stable are really critical to mitigating the coming, rising lake.”

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