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Negotiations underway for dune property

Becky Vargo • May 20, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Negotiations are underway to incorporate the last private piece of land into the Kitchel-Lindquist-Hartger Dunes Preserve.

The 1.8-acre parcel dissects the preserve and adjoining Grand Haven park land, according to Dunes Preserve Board President Joe Sage.

The property belongs to the late Harold Hartger’s three children, who are working with developer Brian Sytsma on options for it. Hartger was one of the original land donors for the dune preserve.

The developer, acting as an agent for the family, met with the Dunes Preserve Board recently to discuss some of those options — one of which is a land swap, Sage said.

“I was pleasantly surprised. The meeting started in a positive fashion,” Sage said. “The three children really cherish the dunes preserve. They feel like they have a legacy obligation, based on their father’s donation.”

Sage said he didn’t know why the piece of land wasn’t included in the original donation. But the land is zoned as “waterfront” and anyone trying to develop it would have to go through a lot of hoops. Sage said the driveway easement on the property is 900 feet long and 50 feet wide.

An ad hoc committee has been created to meet with Sytsma, Sage said. Once an agreement is reached, it will have to be formalized and presented to The Nature Conservancy for approval, Sage said.

“This is the first step in the right direction,” he said. “This is a process that could take a year or two.”

Sage said a proposal could be presented at the next board meeting in June. 

The Kitchel-Lindquist-Hartger Dunes Preserve includes 115 acres of natural dune land in Grand Haven’s North Shore area adjacent to North Shore Marina and Dewey Hill. While the protection of the dune land dates from 1971, when Gerald and Connie Lindquist and Harold Hartger donated 60 acres to The Nature Conservancy, actual ownership and responsibility for the land changed hands several times. 

The Nature Conservancy deeded the Lindquist-Hartger Dunes to Central Michigan University in 1971. CMU planned to use the site for environmental studies.

In 1974, after a long campaign by area environmentalists to prevent residential development of the land between the dunes and Dewey Hill, The Nature Conservancy purchased the 52 acres of dunes using its own funds and a contribution from the Lindquist family. These dunes were named the Kitchel Dunes after local environmentalist Dr. John Kitchel.

By 1987, CMU was no longer interested in the dune area. The Nature Conservancy searched for a local government to take ownership. The City of Grand Haven declined, but the City of Ferrysburg approved the recommendation.

The land deeds contain converter clauses. If Ferrysburg ever decides to end ownership, the land reverts back to The Nature Conservancy.

The deeds also require the land be kept in its natural state, with minimal improvement.

A Dunes Preserve Board was created in 1988. A master plan was created and a trail system was started. The Dr. Mary S. Kitchel Outdoor Classroom was added in 2002.

Most recently, the Meime vandenBerg Trail was added. This goes by the 1.8-acre parcel presently under negotiation.

Note: Historical information compiled by Dennis Craun.

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