Letters support state’s application for grant to protect lakefront land

Township board, parks commission back state's application for Rosenberg Property
The Rosenberg Property, 4036 Hillside Trail off 141st Avenue west of 66th Street, on Thursday, July 20, 2023. The land is 23 acres with about 300 feet of beach frontage on Lake Michigan.

Laketown Township has a more than 20-year history of trying to preserve a 23-acre piece of lakefront land known as the Rosenberg Property. The township still supports that preservation goal, this time with resolutions backing the state’s desire to purchase the land adjoining Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

“This rare opportunity does not come about too often as land along the lakeshore stays locked in families for generations,” said Jeremy Van Hoven, chairperson of the Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission. “Having this land available for public use and recreation would be ideal as it would help link to trails that are already established within the Saugatuck Dunes State Park.”

The land

The Rosenberg Property is 23.29 acres with 290 feet of beach frontage on Lake Michigan at 4036 Hillside Trail off 141st Avenue west of 66th Street. The Holland Board of Public Works purchased the land from the Rosenberg family in 2001 for $1.5 million to secure space to build a second water treatment facility in case it needed to expand water services south of Holland.

The idea was shelved after the water system developed in ways that significantly reduce the likelihood of a second plant, according to city documents. Holland voters in 2022 approved the selling of the land. It’s now listed for $4,449,000 through Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt.

The property does have structures, including an A-frame house, on it.

State application

Besides any prospective private buyers, the State of Michigan has an interest and is applying for a $3 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to purchase the land.

“The proposed 23-acre acquisition is located immediately adjacent to the north of Saugatuck Dunes State Park with road frontage from Hillside Trail Road. This road access will improve access for visitors and park staff and improve the overall park experience,” the state wrote in its application. “The property is currently undeveloped and contains nearly 300 linear feet of frontage on Lake Michigan and a high-quality forested dune ecosystem concurrent with land within Saugatuck Dunes State Park. The property is also threatened by development in a growing region. In fact, several lots adjacent to the property have already been developed.”

The acquisition would boost the area’s tourism economy and improve life for residents by providing access to recreational opportunities, the application stated.

Both the Laketown Township Board of Trustees and the Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission support the state purchase.

On July 12, the township board unanimously supported a resolution to back the state’s plans to apply for the grant.

“Adding it to that (state park) would be awesome,” said Treasurer Gary Dewey who was on the board in 2000 and supported the move then as well.

Most recently, the parks commission on July 19 instructed its chairperson to write a letter of support.

The state’s purchase would keep the land undeveloped and natural, Van Hoven said.

 “We are fortunate to have so much of our critical dune area locked into the state trust and this parcel would be a great addition. This is why the parks commission is drafting a letter of support for the MDNR,” he said.

In November 2022, the parks commission also encouraged the state to seek the land.

Lake Michigan is visible through the trees at the Rosenberg Property, 4036 Hillside Trail off 141st Avenue west of 66th Street, on Thursday, July 20, 2023. The land is 23 acres with about 300 feet of beach frontage on Lake Michigan.

Earlier effort

The township tried to acquire the property more than 20 years ago, applying for grants to purchase what was then four parcels totaling about 28 acres with 673 feet of Lake Michigan frontage. The estimated cost in 2000 was $4.1 million to be paid for with a $3 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, $1 million in family donations and $100,000 in township funds.

The township’s aim was to preserve the forested dunes and wetlands.

“The acquisition of these properties will increase the land area for wildlife habitat and ensure it remains out of the reach of developers,” the application said. The land was also to be used as a swimming beach and for hiking trails.

The application was rejected and the BPW eventually purchased the site.

Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund projects provide for natural resource protection and outdoor recreation. Grant recommendations are made by the trust fund board of trustees to the state legislature in December for approval.

Final grant awards are dependent on the appropriation process, but in general are made within 12 to 18 months after the application deadline, according to the state’s website.