With eyes set on transforming massive Nugent Sand property into recreational space, Muskegon County hopes to preserve waterfront for the public

An aerial shot of the Nugent Sand property. Image courtesy of Cherette Group.

One of the largest remaining tracts of Lake Michigan frontage in the state of Michigan could become a public recreational space in Norton Shores that would include two inland lakes and could feature a beach, camping, hiking trails, fishing, kayak launches, and more, Muskegon County officials announced this week.

Muskegon County is partnering with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan and Shoreline Development Assistance, an environmental consultant, on a proposal to purchase 377 acres of the former Nugent Sand property at 2925 Lincoln St. in Norton Shores.

“There’s still a great deal of work to be done on this, but the potential for this kind of acquisition is really unique,” Muskegon County Administrator Mark Eisenbarth said in an interview on Tuesday. “There’s a south lake and north lake, and the south lake is really all vegetation and beautiful wildlife. There’s deer, turkey. Residents are within walking distance of the lake. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

A vast expanse of woods, two inland lakes—the 120-acre south lake and 61-acre north lake—flora, and fauna, the property is a frequent stop for resting birds as they migrate south and is home to balding eagles, coyotes, deer, and more. Situated close to Roosevelt Park and the city of Muskegon’s Beachwood-Bluffton, Lakeside and Glenside neighborhoods, the space includes 1,917 feet of Lake Michigan frontage and a portion of the property sits on protected Lake Michigan critical dune. The property includes roadway frontage on Seminole Road, Winnetaska Road, and Lincoln Street. 

The below video from Cherette Group, which represents Nugent Sand, gives a sweeping view of the land.

“The property is certainly one of the finest properties, if not the finest remaining property, on Lake Michigan,” Cherette Group founder Denny Cherette said. “It’s pristine; it’s beautiful. It would make a wonderful development of any kind.”

“We’re listening carefully to the county and the Land Conservancy, and we’re interested and willing to try to work with them as they sort through this process,” Cherette continued.

After owning the property for a little more than a century, Nugent Sand ceased mining operations there a couple of years ago and has now put the property up for sale. The purchase price is still being finalized, county officials and Cherette said. If the county’s proposal moves forward, a combination of grant funding, foundation funding, and private donations would likely be used to purchase the space; no general fund dollars would be used to acquire it, according to county officials.

County officials expect to apply for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant, which would provide for a portion of the funding.

The potential recreational space could include a wide variety of additions, including hiking trail development, camping, scenic overlooks, fishing areas, kayak launches, Lake Michigan or inland lake beach access, parking areas, and more, county officials said. The lakes within the facility would be “quiet lakes;” no motorized boat traffic would be allowed. Kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding could be available.

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“The county would like to make it a passive recreation area so people could hike and enjoy nature out there, perhaps even fish or swim,” Muskegon County Community Development Director Bob Lukens said. 

“If the planets align, the county really could have a wonderful piece of property that would provide recreational opportunities for people all over Muskegon County and visitors to the county for years to come,” Lukens continued.

As private development increasingly makes its way to Muskegon’s shores, Lukens emphasized the Nugent Sand property could play a crucial role in keeping waterfront space open to public use.

“This addition would keep a green space all along the lakeshore, as opposed to the development of mansions,” Lukens said. “I think it would really benefit the people who live here, but also the flora and fauna in the area.”

An aerial shot of the Nugent Sand property. Image courtesy of Cherette Group.

The process to acquire the Nugent Sand property and develop it into a recreational area could take up to two years. As part of that process, Muskegon County officials are asking for community input on the potential acquisition, as well as on possible uses of the property, at a public informational session on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 7pm at the Norton Shores Library (705 Seminole Rd.).

“It’s a long process, but it’s all worth it in the end,” Eisenbarth said. “We need the public input and support at the beginning. We’re preserving this for residents of the county. It’s really unique to be able to be in the middle of nature, to have this wildlife preserve, only five minutes from Meijer.”

Following the Feb. 11 meeting, the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners will discuss the proposal at its Community Development/Strategic Planning Committee meeting at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13. The meeting will be held on the fourth floor of the Hall of Justice building, located at 990 Terrace St. in the city of Muskegon.

Afterwards, a required public hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 3 at 3:30 pm at the county’s Ways and Means Committee meeting at the Hall of Justice (990 Terrace St.). The successful completion of that public hearing would pave the way for Muskegon County to pursue grant funding for property acquisition through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

4 thoughts on “With eyes set on transforming massive Nugent Sand property into recreational space, Muskegon County hopes to preserve waterfront for the public

  • February 6, 2020 at 4:34 am

    Wasn’t the Sappi property supposed to be largely for public use? How’s that development going?

  • February 6, 2020 at 7:44 am

    Local governent officials will not want to loose this property as a potential tax base, but they are wrong. Making this into public property will increase property values for real estate in the entire area, bringing in even more tax revenue. The general public needs to push them to get this approved.

    • February 6, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      You are absolutely correct! Our beautiful Lakeshore is a huge draw to the public, and will provide an ongoing support for our wildlife! It sounds like a wonderful plan!

  • February 7, 2020 at 10:54 am

    It would be a boon to add this property to the park system in Michigan. Don’t let it get away, I pledge $1,000 as a personal donation if it can be saved for the citizens


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