By Howard Meyerson
Grand Rapids, Mich. – A $900,000 federal grant to acquire private property within Negwegon State Park on Lake Huron is going to help protect coastal wetlands and endangered species, according to federal officials. The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant was approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and announced early in February.
“The main reason (Negwegon) was selected is the size of the habitat, and being able to connect two pieces (of the park) to make one large tract of land,” said Mara Koenig, public affairs specialist for the U.S. FWS Midwest office in Bloomington Minnesota. “The other is that it contains the endangered Hines emerald dragonfly. Pitcher’s thistle also grows there, and it has the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, which is proposed for federal listing as threatened.”
Negwegon officials say they have long hoped to acquire the 390.8 acre, known as the Dault property. It abuts state park property but sits between the park’s north and south units on Thunder Bay. The private inholding has been a priority acquisition that consolidates state land within the dedicated park boundaries.
“It is great that we got the grant,” said Eric Ostrander, the Michigan DNR’s unit manager for Negwegon and Harrisville State Park where he is based. “We have 3,700 acres at Negwegon and this this will make just over 4,000 acres. There is six to seven miles of lakefront, but now we will have eight continuous miles.
Negwegon, a largely undeveloped natural setting, was established in 1962 as a state park. It is known for sandy beaches, wooded dune swales, and upland and lowland forests. Hunting is permitted and hiking and backcountry camping are allowed. The park increasingly has become a destination for nature lovers, paddlers and hikers.
An old stage coach route runs through the park, according to Ostrander. That trail may be further developed following the Dault property acquisition. Negwegon currently has 12 miles of foot trails and four backcountry campsites.
“It could take up to a year (to complete the acquisition),” Ostrander said. “But it’s going to be a really good thing (for the park).”
Koenig said the Negwegon grant is one of 28 that were awarded to wetland conservation projects in 12 coastal states, totaling more than $20 million. The Dault property, she said, will be open for birding, kayaking and natural history pursuits. Much of it contains rare wetlands.
© 2016 Howard Meyerson
Appears in Michigan Outdoor News.