New signs at beach ask visitors to help protect dunes

Grass plantings designed to stabilize sand.
Signs at Laketown Township Beach advise visitors to stay on the path to protect the dunes. Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.

The Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission wants visitors to the township beach park to stay in their lane on the way to and from Lake Michigan.

The chairperson of the parks group recently posted six signs asking people to remain on the paths to help protect dune stabilization efforts at the beach, 6710 142nd Ave.

“The biggest reason why I wanted the signs out is to remind people that the dunes are fragile and excessive foot traffic in areas that are not dedicated for travel disrupt and uproot the vegetation which in turn causes destabilization of the dune and exacerbates erosion,” said Jeremy Van Hoven, chairperson of the parks commission. “What was concerning me the most was areas that were being traversed and ‘new’ trails being worn into the recently planted grass.”

Olde Paths, Inc., of Holland, began planting the grass in October to help hold the sand in place. More plantings are expected.

Long-term issue

The township has battled shifting sand for decades. The parking lot needs to be cleared each spring. Large portions of wooden steps have been buried.

A four-person crew from Escape Ministries in Holland spent two days earlier this month shoveling sand off about 50 stairs from the parking lot up to the dune. Volunteers also cleaned the steps in September during the annual United Way Day of Caring, an event when volunteers and businesses around the area provide short-term service to area non-profit organizations.

“Sand dunes are quite unique and we are blessed to have them comprise the entire western edge of our township. I would like to do anything that we can to further protect them for future generations to enjoy,” Van Hoven said.

The signs Van Hoven installed came at no additional cost to the township. They were left over from when the stairs were installed about 30 years ago. Brett Grams, township facilities operations, added the posts and brackets that were already in stock.

A sign, bottom left, advises visitors to Laketown Township Beach to stay on the path to protect the dunes. Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.

Looking ahead

“My hopes are that with our current five-year plan, we can find additional strategies for dune stabilization while improving our township beach park for visitor access and enjoyment,” Van Hoven said.

The parks commission is updating its five-year master plan to help secure state and federal grants for improvements. A survey is available on the township website here through Aug. 31.

The beach is open dawn to dusk. There are no lifeguards or warning flags. The beach has signs informing people about rip currents and has a life ring for use in an emergency.

Parking is limited. No dogs allowed.