“Dr. Beach has a strong national following,” said Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “His lists often define the go-to places for travelers who look for the best beaches in the U.S.”
Cisneros said they were excited to hear about Leatherman’s Great Lakes list last year and submitted applications in October.
The Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau submitted applications for the Grand Haven State Park and Grand Haven City Beach. The applications required sand samples, reports from the Ottawa County Health Department, and an interview for daily activity reports from beach and park managers.
“Although we didn’t make the top five list, we are happy with an honorable mention and plan to submit again this year for 2012,” Cisneros said.
For the past 21 years, Leatherman has released widely followed listings of the nation’s top 10 beaches, based on extensive criteria that ranges from sand texture to water quality to facilities. But his list has always been limited to ocean beaches.
After getting thousands of e-mails over the years from lake beach devotees, Leatherman said he relented.
“They really are a hidden gem,” he said of Great Lakes beaches. “People have almost no knowledge of them.”
Leatherman, director of the FIU Laboratory for Coastal Research, said he has visited the Great Lakes a number of times — including a circle tour of Lake Michigan about seven years ago — but readily acknowledges having much to learn. He limited his ranking of its beaches to five and said it’s based on a more subjective evaluation than his ocean beach listings.
Most of the 50-plus questions on Leatherman’s survey dealt with three primary topics: water quality, sand quality and safety.
Leatherman also grilled local officials about rip currents, which can fool newcomers who underestimate the lakes’ size and strength. Stirred by strong offshore winds, rip currents were responsible for 25 drownings in the region last year, he said.
Leatherman also asked coastal communities to fill out a survey and provide a sample of local sand. About 30 locations were nominated.
Based on the submissions, Leatherman’s top beaches on the Great Lakes are Sleeping Bear Dunes; Lake Erie’s Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania; Lake Superior’s Sand Point Beach at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan; Lake Huron’s Bayfield Main Beach in Ontario, Canada; and Lake Michigan’s Oak Street Beach in Chicago.