Lake Michigan Beach House restoration underway

December 7, 2012

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Pines Campground gets new electrical service

HAMLIN TWP. — There is a lot of commotion on the west side of the Ludington State Park this fall. Several park facilities are getting updating and restored.
The biggest project is the renovation of the Lake Michigan Beach House. The building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and completed in 1935.
On Thursday, park manager Jim Gallie gave a tour of that project and some of the other ones at the park.
Crews just finished gutting out both floors of the building. For several years the second floor has been a concession area where food, refreshments and souvenirs were sold. That area will now become a visitor center, which will include interpretive displays.
The main interpretive focus would be on geology and ecology of Lake Michigan as viewed from the beach house. Other exhibits would depict the park’s natural and cultural history.
Previously, the visitor center was located near the Skyline Trail in the center. A few years ago the roof collapsed on that building.
“We looked at where most of the visitors hang out and it’s here at the beach,” Gallie said. “So, it made sense to move the visitor center here. We will provide interpretive programs on a new ground floor patio that will be facing the water.”
The ground floor will feature new bathrooms and a concession area. Both floors will get new, larger windows, allowing more light in the building.
Gallie showed many areas of the building that are deteriorated, including support beams.
The exterior is also being restored.
“The bricks on this structure, which are original, came from a Morton Salt plant in Ludington. In the ’30s, when this building was built, the bricks were already aged,” Gallie said. “Over the last 76 years, the wind and sun have really taken a toll on the bricks and they need to be replaced.”
Gallie said all the old bricks will be replaced. The new bricks and the style of mortar will look the same as the originals, something that is part of the building’s historic character.
Funding for the project was allocated in 2008 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The roof is also being rebuilt. Many of the old cedar shingles have worn very thin, Gallie said.
A new feature to the building will be a handicap accessible ramp, which will allow access to both floors and the beach.
When campers start visiting the park next May, they will have new electrical service in the Pines Campground. Gallie said currently 30 amp service is very limited, causing complications for campers who have larger RVs. Many campers have to share electric pedestals, with only a few featuring the higher amp service.
“The larger RVs have appliances that require more electricity such as ice makers and multiple air conditioners,” Gallie said. “The older 20 amp service can’t keep up with those items.”
Water service throughout the park is also being upgraded. Gallie said the pumps in the park’s three wells were getting old and couldn’t keep up with demand. Leaks were found throughout the system.
Campers in 2013 will also find a more conveniently located sewage dump station. The station is being moved from the day use park’s entrance to the check-in station two miles south increasing the number of dumping facilities from two to four.
“This will especially be an improvement for the larger RVs,” Gallie said. “There is always a long line of campers causing congestion at the end of the weekend. This will relieve a lot of that.”
Gallie said an unanticipated snafu to the new facility are campers that use more portable waste equipment. He said new mini dumping facilities will be located near a bathroom in each campground.
“These mini stations will not be accessible by vehicle,” Gallie said. “The problem we ran into is that there are campers that use these removable tanks that are attached to the hitch of vehicles. You can’t drive very fast when transporting these tanks. Going to the old station wasn’t a problem, but going a few miles down a state highway is not very practical.
“As we started to research this, we discovered that these mini stations don’t exist. Nobody else has ever done this. Our engineers developed these stations from scratch.”
In addition to the state park projects, Big Sable Lighthouse, which is located in the park, is also under going some repairs.
Gallie said the Sable Lighthouse Keepers Association, owners of the lighthouse, have been extending the seawall that protects the historic lighthouse.
Lower lake levels and good weather have allowed construction trucks to use the beach for transportation instead of the access road. “Those trucks would have caused a lot of damage to that access road,” Gallie said. “So, it’s been nice that they have been able to use the beach, entering north of the beach house.”
All projects are expected to be completed before camping season begins again in May 2013.

For more information on the Lake Michigan Beach House project, click here.

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10365_24648-260531–,00.html

Story and photos by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

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